Hundreds attend pro-Palestine protest organised by Bristol SWSS and PalSoc

‘We need to stand together as a community and uphold our shared values of mutual respect, care, compassion and inclusivity’


Hundreds of students attended a pro-Palestine protest yesterday, Wednesday 25th October, organised by the Bristol University Socialist Workers Student Society (SWSS) and Friends of Palestine Society.

Beginning at 1pm, the group marched from the Arts and Social Sciences Library to the Wills Memorial Building, chanting “free, free, Palestine” and carrying posters reading “freedom for Palestine.”

Notable speakers include Ben Meehan, the UWE student arrested after his Just Stop Oil protest on campus a few weeks ago, a lecturer from the law department, and trade unionists from UNISON.

The protest was also supported by Bristol Uni Pakistan society, Amnesty International, Stop the War Coalition, and Tamil Soc.

Charlie Gadd, a member of the Socialist Workers Student Society who spoke at the protest, said: “The university has allowed Israeli Defence Force soldiers onto campus which threatens the safety of Palestinian students.”

Gadd later told The Bristol Tab: “A few years ago the Conservative association and free speech society held a joint event where they invited Richard Kemp.

“He used to be in the British Army … but also a former IDF general came as well. We had protests outside about it, but like, I think it’s shocking that that’s allowed.”

The protestors chanted the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, an allusion to the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean which has been criticised by Home Secretary Suella Braverman as “a demand for the destruction of Israel.”

When approached for comment, the Bristol Jewish Society said: “The Jewish Society supports and encourages a healthy, vibrant and diverse conversation and discourse on campus.

“However, this phrase, along with many others chanted at the protest, begins to cross a line in discussions over the eradication of the only Jewish State, and this anti-zionist rhetoric can then begin to spill over into fierce anti-semitism, which along with all kinds of hate, has no place on campus.”

Speaking about the chant, the Palestinian Society said its meaning had become “distorted”. They told The Tab: “Outrage over a chant used by all pro-Palestine protesters obscures the actually occurring genocide being carried out in Gaza.”

The Bristol Tab spoke to one second-year medic at the protest who said: “We need to put our voices together to show our discontent.”

The president of the Palestine Society who was in attendance at the protest emphasised this standpoint, saying: “We are only here to speak about and raise awareness of the issues suffered by Palestinians and the genocide that is still ongoing.”

Two days ago (24th October) the vice chancellor of the university, Evelyn Welch, sent an email to students addressing the current conflict in Israel and Gaza.

Welch called for students to “stand together as a community and uphold our shared values of mutual respect, care, compassion and inclusivity. We also need to recognise the hurt and vulnerability that others may be feeling.”

At the pro-Palestine protest last Friday (20th October), The Socialist Workers Student Society were reportedly circulating illegal pamphlets endorsing the actions of Hamas, with the latest distribution happening on Tuesday.

The vice chancellor addressed this circulation of “unacceptable material” around campus.

She said: “It is important for everyone in our community to be fully aware that Hamas is categorised in the UK as a proscribed terrorist organisation, meaning it is illegal to express support, including moral support, for Hamas and its activities.

“No matter how deeply we are feeling the impact of these terrible events, every member of our university community must feel safe and included.

“No form of racism, anti-semitism, islamophobia, other unlawful discrimination, incitement to violence, or bullying or harassment will be tolerated and any reports of such behaviour will be taken very seriously.”

A spokesperson for the University of Bristol said about the protest: “Our thoughts are with all members of our community personally affected by the devastating loss of life and suffering in Israel and Gaza.

“There is no place for any form of racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, discrimination, incitement, bullying or harassment at the University of Bristol.

“It is more important than ever that we stand together as a community at this difficult time and uphold our shared values of mutual respect, care, compassion and inclusivity. Every member of our community should feel safe and supported on campus.”

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