Lancaster Uni students begin encampment in Alexandra Square in solidarity with Palestine

The students set up their tents at around 11am this morning

Students at Lancaster University have launched an encampment in Alexandra Square in solidarity with Palestine.

The demonstration has been organised by Demilitarise Lancaster and began around 11am this morning, as student protesters set up tents and banners opposite the SU building on campus.

There currently appears to be around 10-15 students participating in the encampment, taking up almost half of Alexandra Square.

Deminilitarise Lancaster are demanding that Lancaster University cuts ties with arms companies, including a partnership with arms dealer BAE Systems, which the group says are complicit in “fuelling Israel’s assault on Gaza”.

The protestors have announced three primary demands: That Lancaster University “publicly supports an immediate and permanent ceasefire”, that it does not “pursue disciplinary action against students and staff involved in protests”, and that it cuts ties with arms companies.

It added: “Meaning that it does not invite them to career fairs. That it revokes the 2022 Memorandum of Understanding with BAE systems. And does not work with BAE systems on projects such as the campus in Barrow-in-Furness.”

Lancaster University’s partnership with BAE systems has previously been denounced by Demilitarise Lancaster, who occupied Margaret Fell lecture theatre in 2022 and the Charles Carter building in 2023 to protest against University’s ties with the organisation.

The BAE systems website says that it “provide[s] some of the world’s most advanced, technology-led defence, aerospace and security solutions…we develop, engineer, manufacture, and support products and systems to deliver military capability, protect national security and people, and keep critical information and infrastructure secure.”

Last February, The Guardian reported that BAE Systems made record sales of £25.3 billion in 2023 amidst the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

Demilitarise Lancaster commented on the current encampment via its Instagram, saying:

“As Israel has rejected a ceasefire agreement and has invaded Rafah, it is more important than ever to speak up, and we refuse to be silent.”

In a statement, it added: “We do not want to take this action, but we feel like we have to. Our calls for Lancaster University to cut ties with arms companies have only been ignored. In solidarity with US and UK universities also setting up encampments, we have therefore decided to escalate our campaign. Our university is complicit in genocide, and we say: Not in our name!”

In a statement to The Lancaster Tab, BAE Systems said: “The ongoing violence in the Middle East is having a devastating impact on civilians in the region and we hope the parties involved find a way to end the violence 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.”

A spokesperson for Lancaster University Students’ Union said:

“On Thursday a group of organising students came together in Alexandra Square to protest the ongoing war and to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

“As a union we support the rights of students and staff all to organise, protest, and exercise their freedom of speech. Following the response to student protests in the United States, the wellbeing and safety of our students is our main priority. Your Vice-President Welfare and Students’ Union Chief Executive are meeting with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor to discuss student safety and wellbeing and the University’s response to the protests.

“We encourage our students to be political, and take action on movements and causes they believe in – in a respectful and safe manner. We understand that this will be an extremely difficult time for many students, especially those with friends and family in the region. 

“If you witness any incidents of racism, islamophobia, or antisemitism, we urge you to report this to the Students’ Union Advice Service who can support with complaints and hate-crime reporting. For any urgent safeguarding concerns please contact the Students’ Union Safeguarding lead on 07376 427552. The Union of Jewish Students have opened a Welfare Hotline for students on 02074243288. Support and information about Islamophobia from the Muslim Council of Britain can be found here.”

VP Welfare, Josh Newsham, said: “Last term we published a statement on the ongoing effect of the conflict on our students and in support of the people of the middle east to self-determination of their nation and government. The people of Palestine and Israel deserve to flourish in a life free from persecution, terrorism, and war.

“The well-being of the protestors and students on campus is our main priority so we have organised hygiene essentials to be available from the Students’ Union. Our Pantry and Supper Club are available to students on campus and showers located behind the Students’ Union Office. I am in on-going dialogue with the relevant students and communities. We also continue to urge the University to engage in dialogue with student communities and organisers.

“We ask that security and police presence on campus meets students with compassion, dignity, and the respect for freedom of speech.”

A spokesperson for Lancaster University said: “The University is committed to upholding the right to freedom of speech for our staff and students and enabling them to peacefully protest within the law. Universities are places for people to express their views and listen to those of others – including those they do not agree with.

The safety and wellbeing of our staff and students are of paramount importance to us, as is the need for all students to be able to continue to go about their studies without fear or harassment.

The University continues to operate as normal and we will show no tolerance towards hate speech of any kind.”

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