UCL Palestine encampment UCL Palestine encampment. Photo: Counterfire

Counterfire members report on the Palestine solidarity camps in London, Leeds and Bristol


On Thursday the rapidly-spreading student encampment protests for Palestine arrived in London. Students at UCL took to the main quad of their campus and set up tents, inspired by the US encampments.

The university immediately fortified all entrances of the campus with extra security to stop non-students being able to join in with the protest or bring supplies to the students. Despite this block by the university, students from other London universities, particularly Kings College London have managed to join the encampment.

On Friday the students organised several events including a talk by Palestinian doctor Ghassan Abu-Sittah and two rallies where protesters came down to the university to show their support. Still blocked by university security, people rallied on the other side of the main gate, following the chants led by the students inside.

People also brought supplies for the students. It’s clear the number of campuses where students are protesting is growing rapidly, but so is the solidarity and support with them.

At Goldsmiths University, students who have been protesting and walking out since the genocide in Gaza began and recently had an occupation, students occupied the university library. On Friday, the university conceded on all their demands to divest from Israeli apartheid, introduce scholarships for Palestinian students and more.

It will be a big boost for the student movement and the Palestine movement nationally and internationally to see such a direct victory from collective action.

Over the coming days and weeks, the whole movement needs to rally behind the students, ensure that they have the full support and resources that they need, and defend them from attacks from university managements, the government and mainstream media.

Please look for and follow their social media accounts and send them messages of solidarity.


Students at the University of Leeds are camping out in solidarity with the people of Gaza, and in opposition to the way the university is tied up with Israel’s war on the Palestinians. They join a growing number of pro-Palestine camps throughout Britain and the rest of the world. Their demands include divestment from companies arming Israel and the ending of partnerships between the university and Israeli institutions.

A particular issue at Leeds is the presence of a chaplain who fought for the IDF during the early stages of Israel’s onslaught last year. This raises particular issues, especially whether Muslim and other students will find a chaplaincy associated with this particular chaplain approachable. There are broader consequences for the University’s approach to student wellbeing.

The camp is buzzing with enthusiastic solidarity, yet reflects a proper anger at the plight of the Palestinian people. However, like other similar protests, it needs support from those committed to Palestine solidarity. Lies have been told about Leeds Palestine protests on the internet, and a rally at the University was met by a pro-Israel counterdemonstration. A small group of people waving Israeli and British flags congregated and shouted at the pro-Palestinian activists. In this kind of climate, it is vital that socialists rally round Palestine activists. Visits to protest camps, and expressions of support on social media and elsewhere, might seem small actions, but can make a lot of difference.

We also have a role in countering the lies that are being told about pro-Palestinian activists: that they are anti-Semitic, that they support violence, and so on. The truth is that this is a movement for peace in the face of a genocidal war. And for that reason, this movement deserves the support of all of us.


As student protests grip the US, students here in the UK have begun their own wave of encampments to show their solidarity with the people of Palestine. At the time of writing, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Warwick, UCL, Goldsmiths and Bristol have been named as sites of student action, with others likely to follow. After prolonged pressure from staff and students, York has publicly stated that it ‘no longer holds investments in companies that primarily make or sell weapons and defence-related products or services.’

In Bristol, students have occupied the Royal Fort Gardens opposite the Senate House. Called ‘Bristol Students Occupy 4 Palestine’ on social media, they are protesting against the University of Bristol’s complicity in Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people.

In a press statement they have stated that, gathered through Freedom of Information requests and publicly available research records, the University holds £92 million in financial investments and research partnerships with arms companies. These investments and partnerships enable the continued arming of Israel, whose actions the ICJ have said ‘could amount to genocide’ and which UK government lawyers, in a leaked recording, have said is in breach of international law.

Despite this knowledge and despite numerous walkouts, meetings, open letters and occupations, the University of Bristol has yet to take any action. As a result, students are taking direct action to demand divestment and demilitarisation.

Students have also stated that the camp serves as a place of academic freedom and solidarity, where students can safely meet to educate themselves on matters of global justice and anti-racism. The increasingly authoritarian repression of pro-Palestine voices globally, as well as Bristol University’s complicity and inaction, has meant that students do not feel safe on campus and fear academic freedom is at risk.

To counter this, various activities have been announced. These include guest speakers on a range of topics, a protest followed by a communal lunch for the general public and a bake sale with the proceeds going towards Medical Aid for Palestine. The students encourage people to visit the encampment, not only to show their solidarity but also to discuss, learn and even disagree in a safe and friendly environment.

As the invasion of the Rafah refugee camp looms, anti-genocide demos are met with increasing violence and Israeli war crimes, which possibly include the execution of children and people being buried alive, are broadcasted across the world. The student uprising stands as a way to turn the tide. We must stand as one for the people of Palestine and raise our voices for those who have had theirs brutally cut short.

Bristol students have categorically stated that they will continue to protest until their demands are met. It is the responsibility of all of us to support them and spread awareness that, until all of us are free, none of us are free.

Free Palestine

Long live Gaza

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