Birmingham students join national walkout in pro-Palestine protest
Hundreds of students left their lectures on Friday in a call for immediate action
Students at the University of Birmingham joined a national student walkout in support of Palestine.
Held at 1pm on Friday 10th November on the Green Heart at the centre of the Edgbaston campus, the hour-long protest heard speeches made from the top of the Green Heart steps.
Campus security were present at the demonstration, which proceeded without any cause for intervention.
Hundreds attended the student protest as part of a nationwide day of action, holding flags and Free Palestine posters while chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “we are all Palestinians”.
Further chants included “UoB shame shame, all the crimes in your name”, referring to the University of Birmingham’s ongoing investment partnership with weapons manufacturer BAE Systems, which protestors said “arms Israel’s genocide in Gaza”.
A BAE spokesperson said: “We’re horrified by the situation in Israel and Gaza and the devastating impact it’s having on civilians in the region and we hope it can be resolved as soon as possible. We respect everyone’s right to protest peacefully. We operate under the tightest regulation and comply fully with all applicable defence export controls, which are subject to ongoing assessment.”
Organisers of the protest included the Palestine Youth Movement, UCU, and University of Birmingham Students for Justice in Palestine (UoBSJP), who primarily used social media and word-of-mouth to inform students about the demonstration.
Protesters called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the UK’s complicity in the “genocide of the Palestinian people” says UoB alumnus who helped to coordinate the national student walkout.
Prior to the walkout, UoBSJP released a statement signed by 30 student societies, rejecting universities’ suppression of students’ support for Palestine.
Their demands, which were shared on Instagram, included an immediate ceasefire and an end to Israel’s siege on Gaza, an end to the university’s research, commercial, and institutional partnerships with Israel, and an end to university repression of pro-Palestinian students and staff.
Protestors say they want the university to cut all institutional ties and indirect investments in the conflict. One Birmingham student leading the chanting, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she felt “embarrassed and ashamed” to be associated with the university and its complicit funding.
When asked why they participated in the walkout, another anonymous student said that without demonstrations like this, issues are not brought to light. They said: “people don’t talk about issues, like they’re not even happening”, and believed that the campus protest will encourage people to research and discuss the situation.
A student organiser of the protest, who also wished to remain anonymous, said that people often underestimate “the power students hold in numbers” to instil significant change.
Other organisers said they were pleased with the large turnout, but not surprised since supporting the issue was “organic”.
Moving forward, they hope the walkout gathered new followers of the pro-Palestine movement, or at least encouraged students to educate themselves on the conflict.
A spokesperson from the University of Birmingham said: “While the university respects the right to peaceful protest, this must be carried out safely, respectfully and within the law, and we have established processes to enable this to happen. In this instance, the organisers – who were not known to the university nor representing any recognised student groups – did not contact the university to seek permission for the event.
“Our priority is to ensure the safety of all our community. While we acknowledge that our students and staff hold a range of opinions about the politics and geopolitics of Israel and Palestine, we expect that they engage with each other in a respectful manner.
“We unequivocally condemn Antisemitism, Islamophobia and hate speech, and do not tolerate discrimination on campus. We are in close contact with our Guild of Students and student and staff groups and networks to ensure that they feel supported. Students and staff can access support and report instances of all forms of harassment through our online portal.
“All research (and research partnerships) at the University of Birmingham must comply with our rigorous code of [ractice for research to maintain the highest standards of responsible ethical conduct, as well as scholarly and scientific integrity. All research proposals go through multiple levels of scrutiny within the university to ensure this happens, both during project development and implementation, including full due diligence on ethical issues.
“The University of Birmingham is committed to maintaining high environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards across its investment portfolios. It is a signatory to the UN Principles for responsible investment, incorporating ESG factors in our investments. The university investment policy contains exclusion criteria relating to armaments. It aims to invest in companies where the activities of the company are, on ethical grounds, consistent with the educational and/or research objectives of the university.”