27 January 2009
Student unrest sparked by university links to arms trade
A nationwide wave of activism has swept through university campuses in response to Israeli military action in Gaza, underpinned by university links to the arms industry. The intensity and co-ordination of the current campaign looks set to gather steam in the run-up to a nationwide Day of Action set for the 11 February.
Many of the student activists have built strong ties with the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), and are supported by CAAT's research into the many links between the arms trade and the UK higher education sector.
Recent sites of campus activism include:
- Warwick, Coventry - One hundred and fifty students have occupied a lecture theatre since the 21 January. By day this takes the form of a peaceful vigil. At night the building is alive with debates, film screenings and lectures given by activists and human rights campaigners. The group are demanding the university sever all links with arms companies supplying Israel, including BAE systems.
- Kings College London - One hundred students planned the takeover of a faculty building. They demanded five fully-funded scholarships for Palestinian students, help to organise a cross-campus fundraising day, and donations of surplus educational resources to Gaza. In addition, they are calling for the college to make its links to the arms trade public.
- LSE, London - From 15 - 21 January the London School of Economics (LSE) witnessed a six-day occupation of the oldest lecture hall. Students set up a charity collection for medical aid for Gaza. The university has also agreed to seriously consider a divestment-based ethical investment policy.
- Oxford - Eighty students entered the Bodleian library demanding the university condemn the Israeli attacks on Gaza. By the day's end the faculty had agreed to all demands, including the cancellation of a lecture series to be given by prominent Israeli politician, Shimon Peres.
- Essex, Colchester - Students constructed a giant wall through the campus main square as part of a series of rallies, protests and fundraising events. They succeeded in arranging supplies of books and computers to be sent to Gaza.
Further demonstrations calling for similar measures to be taken have also been reported at Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Sussex, Kingston, Cambridge, Bristol, Nottingham, University College London and the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
CAAT's local campaigns coordinator Anne-Marie O'Reilly said:
“It is really exciting to see such a resurgence of direct action in solidarity with those in Gaza and against university links to the arms trade. The strength of feeling among students has been made utterly clear - and will be spelt out on our day of action on 11 February.”
CAAT has published a wealth of data concerning the various links between universities and British arms companies, including university investment in the arms trade and recruitment of students by arms companies.
For further information or an interview please contact CAAT's Media Coordinator, Kaye Stearman on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232 or email press(at)caat·org·uk. CAAT spokespeople are available for interview on this issue and/or photographs are available.
1.Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. CAAT is strictly non-violent in all its work.
2.CAAT's Universities Day of Action will take place on 11 February. Students across the country will organise non-violent actions including photo stunts stalls and more in order to publicise growing student unrest with university links to the arms trade.
3.CAAT has details of many of the activists involved with the recent campus demonstrations, and can provide contact details and photographs on request.