On January 25, students at the University of Warwick staged the latest in a series of pro-Palestine demonstrations in a sit-in at the Faculty of Arts Building (FAB).
The sit-in was organised by Warwick Stands With Palestine, a “cross-campus coalition of student and staff organisations”.
The protest, which numbered roughly 20–30 people, started around midday and lasted until 1:30pm. A previous sit-in at the FAB last term saw roughly 100 students take part.
Some demonstrators carried Palestinian flags, while others wore keffiyehs, a headdress associated with Palestinian nationalism. Many wore masks under the guidance of the organisers.
The group sat in the ground floor lobby of the FAB, where some proceeded to chant slogans through megaphones. About halfway through the demonstration, those present lay on the ground in what was described as a ‘die-in’ to reflect the plight of Gazans.
According to information from the organisers distributed beforehand, the protest was planned in coordination with a so-called ‘global strike for Gaza’, taking place from January 21–28. The ‘global strike’ was called for by Bisan Owda, a Gazan journalist. As part of it, pro-Palestine activists and organisations have called for participants to walk out of schools and workplaces alongside boycotts of companies identified to be supporting the State of Israel.
Chants by the demonstrators included ‘Money for our education, not for evil corporations’, and ‘Hey-hey, ho-ho, Israeli ties have got to go’
During the sit-in, protestors repeated previous calls for Warwick to cut its ties with Israel, including links to arms companies such as BAE Systems with whom the University has numerous partnerships.
Chants by the demonstrators included “money for our education, not for evil corporations”, and “hey-hey, ho-ho, Israeli ties have got to go”.
Other controversial slogans were also used. Aside from the “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” chant, the group at one stage also sang “Yemen, Yemen, make us proud, turn another ship around”.
This was in reference to the Houthis, a religious insurgency in Yemen which has drawn headlines in recent months for attacking international merchant shipping in the Red Sea.
The UK government is reportedly considering proscribing the Houthis as a terror group, an action that would make expressions of support such as the example above a crime.
The response from students in the FAB at the time was mixed. One was negative, as a student told The Boar: “This is making me embarrassed to be pro-Palestine.”
Another was more diplomatic: “Maybe it’s not the best thing for people who want to work. It’s legitimate, but it’s disruptive.”
A student who was in a seminar during the protest said: “The tutor couldn’t hear what we were saying half the time, and it was incredibly disruptive.”
During the demonstration, several statements were delivered via loudspeaker.
One student declared: “We are at the sharpest edge of imperialism and Zionism. We are here because we are 110 days into a genocide. We are here because we are 110 days into the most shameless covering over Zionism we have seen.”
They added: “Until Palestine is free, we will keep showing up, and we will keep resisting, and we will keep coming back.”
In a press release, Warwick Stands With Palestine said: “In line with Bisan’s call to protest ‘business as usual,’ we disrupted the midday class changeover with chants and speeches highlighting Warwick University’s links to the genocidal entity.
“We intended to emphasise that despite our atomised existence as students, our life at an elite Western university is not politically neutral, detached or meaningless.
“By taking up space and making speeches about this we gave every student a choice to take a principled position against our institution’s support for Zionism.”