Student protest for Palestine shuts down largest department at Goldsmiths University

Students protesting in support of Palestine have shut down one of the largest departments at Goldsmiths University.

The protesters have occupied the Professor Stuart Hall (PSH) building T the Lewisham-based university for 21 days after they claimed Goldsmiths’ management “failed to engage” with a series of demands laid out at the start of the protest on February 20. 

Pickets have been held each morning from 8am, to urge students and staff not to enter the building. As a result, no classes have taken place in the largest department of Goldsmiths, Media, Communication and Cultural Studies, and the building cafe has closed.

Students take out a rally in solidarity with Palestine after occupying the PSH building (Picture: Goldsmiths for Palestine)

The protests claim to defend “academic freedom” and “student rights to protest”, after Goldsmiths imposed protest guidelines following walkouts for Palestine in December.

A spokesman for the university said the guidelines banned protesters from using words or images that “incite racism or hatred” or “promote banned organisations”.

The group also claims the university upped surveillance of student protesters – including body cams worn by security. But this claim was refuted by Goldsmiths, with a spokesman saying security guards have worn body cameras “long before the events of October 7”.

On Friday, to coincide with the national workplace and student day of action for Palestine, students organised a  “Stop the Genocide” rally outside the building, which was attended by about 100 students, staff and supporters.

Councillor for New Cross Gate, Liam Shrivastava, speaking at the rally (Picture: Goldsmiths for Palestine)

At the rally, Akanksha Mehta, a staff member at Goldsmiths, said: “We are here today, as we collectivise in anger and rage and sadness and grief – and even more rage with every passing second – as we bear witness to a genocide that continues.”

Councillors also attended the rally, including the Civic Mayor of Lewisham council, Tauseef Anwar. In a speech to the protesters he said: “This students’ action is not a local action, even a small stone has an impact.”

The student occupation has published an open letter with more than 800 signatures, including Jewish anti-Zionist activist Barnaby Raine and Irish politician Richard Boyd Barrett. 

Banners put up in the occupied building read “Occupied for Palestine” (Picture: Goldsmiths for Palestine)

The group’s demands include Goldsmiths ‘releasing a new statement naming and condemning the ongoing genocide in Palestine’, ‘scrap the new protest guidelines’,’ an increase in scholarships and academic fellowships for Palestinians’ and ‘divestment from companies complicit in Israeli apartheid and genocide’.

More than 30,800 people have been killed in Gaza by the Israeli military since October 7, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Israel’s military launched an air and ground campaign in Gaza after the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7 last year in which about 1,200 people were killed and 253 others were taken hostage.

A spokesman from Goldsmiths University said: “We’ve engaged in dialogue with the group and are committed to ongoing and open discussions to bring this action to an end.

“We have published guidance on demonstrations on campus which emphasise both the right to protest and the need for such protests to take place in line with our policies, our values and the law. Our prime concern is to ensure that our staff and students are safe and supported.     

“The guidance spells out that protesters don’t use words or images that incite racism or hatred and that they don’t promote banned organisations or acts of terrorism.” . 

 “We are clear that any disruption to other students’ learning is unacceptable and are putting in place alternative arrangements where required.”

Pictured top: Councillor Tauseef Anwar speaking at the rally on Friday (Picture: Goldsmiths for Palestine)

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