Students protest on campus against University of York’s ‘investment in arms companies’
Protesters said the university is ‘taking student fees and turning it into blood money’
Students staged a protest on the University of York campus yesterday against the university’s investments in weapon companies.
Protestors held banners and conducted speeches at Central Hall before moving through campus, protesting outside the Library entrance and outside Heslington Hall.
Security intervened but students continued their “silent protest” on campus after being moved from Central Hall.
The protest began at around 12pm, as student protesters stood on top of Central Hall holding a “Free Palestine” banner and a Palestinian flag. The protesters could be heard from Greg’s Place chanting “Uni of York, divest now” through a megaphone.
After speaking to campus security, the students made their way down from Central Hall, with one protestor shouting: “The university wants to silence us, they don’t want people to protest, so come and join us as we march silently in support of Palestine and protest against the university’s investment in arms companies which profit from the death of innocent people in the Gaza strip.”
The protestors then began to march around campus, still carrying the flag and banner, whilst periodically restating why they were protesting through the megaphone.
Having made their way around the lake, through the Physics building and past the YUSU offices, the protestors stated that they were “protesting silently as per university regulations in case anyone’s listening, because the university invests money in arms companies… so come and join us and we’re going to make a statement, silently.”
The protesters then stood outside the entrance to the Morrell Library, telling passers-by why they were there and what they were protesting, including how the University of York has previously invited weapons manufacturing companies to careers fairs on campus.
The protest reached Heslington Hall at around 1pm this afternoon, where the students held their banners whilst one protester spoke to passers-by through the megaphone. An protestor, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The university is investing in companies which make missiles and weapons of war which kill innocent children, women, and disabled people.
“The university is profiting and is funding deaths across the world and we are contributing to it as students. Our tuition fees are directly funding the massacre of people not only in Israel and Palestine, but across the world, and not just now, but in the past and also in the future. So that’s why we are here.”
He carried on, directly speaking to those inside Heslington Hall as he said: “I don’t know if you can hear us in there, but we have sent many emails, we have sent many petitions, gone to many marches in town, and we are really upset. We are seething. We are angry because the university puts money and time not into us, or our futures, but into ending the futures of people across the globe, and invites them to career events fuelling work which leads to deaths. I think it is disgraceful.
“All you have to do is not invest in weapon companies. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”
He also added that the “university state that we have the right to make our views heard, but then doesn’t listen to us” and instead they “just shut the door in our faces.”
This student then directed his message to York’s vice chancellor, Charlie Jeffery, as he said, “I hope you can hear us in there Charlie Jeffery, because there are people dying and their blood is on your hands”. The students then collectively and repeatedly shouted “What do we want? Divestment now! When do we want it? Now!”
They also chanted: “Free, Free Palestine, Free, Free Palestine!”, “Uni of York, divest now!” and, “your profits are covered in Palestinian blood!”
After saying that the university is “taking student fees and turning it into blood money”, the students also chanted “Shame on you! Shame on you!”
One protester spoke to The York Tab about the protest. He said: “This is about the university’s investment, both in terms of money and it’s own resources, allowing arms companies to continue business in the UK. They invest in arms companies which are currently providing weapons to the state of Israel to conduct a genocide in Palestine. They also allow these companies to come to our careers fairs. It’s wrong and they should stop.”
Following a string of on-campus protests at the start of this semester, the University of York updated guidance for staging protests on campus in an effort to ensure protesters are not “subject to disciplinary action”. This guidance states that students looking to arrange protests on campus should give notice to the Uni of York’s campus safety team, amongst other things.
A University of York spokesperson said: “We have already taken action, and no longer have investments in companies with over five per cent of revenue generation in sectors such as the arms industry, but the university plans to go further so there is zero per cent investment in these companies.”
BAE Systems and MBDA Missile Systems have been contacted for comment.