Around 100 students sat on the ground floor of the Faculty of Arts Building (FAB) yesterday in protest of the University’s “hypocrisy” surrounding the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
The protest was organised by an association of various Warwick activist groups and was carried out during this year’s Edward Said Memorial Lecture.
The sit-in began when students gathered in front of the central staircase of the FAB, where participants could be seen chanting in support of Palestine. The organisers of the sit-in stressed that they did not aim to disrupt the ongoing lecture.
Protestors held banners that read: “Warwick, What Would Said Say?” and “Apartheid off campus, no peace without liberation”.
Protest leaders then delivered speeches one by one, specifying that the sit-in aimed to pressure the University into meeting their demands.
They argued that the University held the Edward Said Memorial Lecture as a decolonial talk and had a huge investment in showing solidarity with Ukraine, but it has remained silent regarding the conflict in Gaza, meanwhile co-operating with companies that “support” Israel.
We will continue to call-out the University’s empty gestures toward ‘decolonising’ our education, until material changes are made
Leaders of the protest
They demanded that the University of Warwick clearly condemn Israeli war crimes and support calls for a ceasefire. They also called for the University to divest from all companies “complicit in Israeli apartheid and colonial occupation”, and to uphold freedom of speech for students and staff to express their solidarity with Palestine.
Leaders said that the lecture and extended reading lists “will not liberate the people”, adding that “every lecture should be considered a blood scene”.
One chant used by protestors was: “Warwick what’s your policy? We see through hypocrisy.”
In the second half of the sit-in, the leaders referenced the philosophy of Edward Said: an academic, literacy critic, and political activist in the latter half of the 20th century. They highlighted that Said was Palestinian and the “founder of post-colonial studies”.
They quoted Said: “Nothing in my view is more reprehensible than those habits of mind in the intellectual that induce avoidance, that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position, which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take.”
The leaders of the protest added that the University should acknowledge Said’s support for protecting the full rights of the Palestinian people and the liberation of colonies when it commemorated his work.
Protestors carried on chanting when the lecture, delivered by the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Abdulrazak Gurnah, was taking place in the lecture theatre next to them.
After the lecture, a member of the audience spoke to Gurnah to highlight their thoughts on Warwick’s relationship with Palestine.
The Boar spoke to those in attendance at the lecture. Although one member of the audience said they found the comments made “quite rude”, a PhD student reflected: “I think the point made by someone in the audience to ask the University to take a strong position against the war in Palestine, reminding people about how the university is in some ways linked to this through companies such as Rolls-Royce, was crucial.
“It reminds us that as universities are privileged spaces to express our thoughts about and opinions, it is important to use this space to express our support to oppressed communities and condemn any kind of oppression.”
The sit-in continued when the lecture ended. When the participants in the lecture left, some of them raised their hands to show support to the protestors and join the protest.
Earlier this morning, multiple student societies posted a collective statement about yesterday’s events.
The statement read:
“Yesterday, 100 students occupied the foyer of the Faculty of Arts building. Our sit-in was in protest of Warwick University’s continued complicity in the occupation of Palestinian lands and genocide of Palestinian people.
“We will continue to call-out the University’s empty gestures toward “decolonising” our education, until material changes are made.
“We, as a collective, find it deeply hypocritical for members of Warwick’s management to accept invitations to attend a “decolonial” lecture in Edward Said’s name, a Palestinian scholar-activist, whilst maintaining its ties to Israel.”
The complete statement can be read here.