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Cambridge students stage ‘die-in’ at Barclays bank to protest against Israel and fossil fuels

Protesters at the St Andrew's Street branch of Barclays in Cambridge
Protesters at the St Andrew's Street branch of Barclays in Cambridge - FELIX ARMSTRONG

Pro-Palestinian campaigners joined environmental activists in staging a sit-in at Barclays bank in Cambridge – calling for an end to the bank’s “investment” in Israel’s operations in Gaza and its funding of the fossil fuel industry.

A group of 15 student and local campaigners occupied Barclays’ St Andrew’s Street branch on Saturday, staging a three-hour “die-in” on the floor of the bank before leaving and marching through the town centre.

The protesters claimed that Barclays is “complicit” in Israel’s killing of thousands of civilians in Gaza, with accusations that the bank also holds more than £1 billion in shares and provides £3 billion in loans to companies whose weapons, components and military technology are being used in its military operations.

The group of activists hand out leaflets criticising the bank's investmen
The group of activists hand out leaflets criticising the bank's investments - FELIX ARMSTONG

One banner held up outside the building read: “Barclays; blood on your hands”.

There were similar protests outside the branches of Barclays in Hitchin and Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

While activists occupied the branch, others outside chanted “Israel is a terrorist state” and “from the river, to the sea, Palestine will be free” – both slogans regarded by some as offensive and anti-Semitic.

Business continued inside the bank while police maintained a low key presence outside. At one stage branch staff briefly shut the doors of the building before the activists left at around 12.30pm.

Before the start of a march through the centre of Cambridge passers-by outside the bank were handed leaflets urging them to close their Barclays accounts.

One activist said: “Barclays must immediately withdraw its financial support for companies that manufacture arms used by the Israeli military.”

An activist who took part in the sit-in said: “We had a really peaceful sit-in, we did some die-ins, some meditation, we were holding banners and placards, we did some origami of cranes, which are a symbol of peace, and we also made a paper chain with lots of messages to Barclays for all the harm that they’re causing.”

The occupation was organised by a coalition of anti-war and environmental campaigns, including student groups Cambridge Climate Justice and Cambridge University PalSoc, and local groups Cambridge Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Cambridge Stop the War.

The campaigners are also criticising the bank for its links to the fossil fuel industry, following the launch of a career boycott of Barclays last month, when students from across the country pledged not to work for the firm.

Barclays has recently come under pressure from the University of Cambridge, which is reportedly considering ending its two centuries-long association with the bank, in favour of a partner which does not “finance fossil fuel expansion”.

Campaigners fly the tricolour flag of Palest
Campaigners fly the tricolour flag of Palestine - FELIX ARMSTRONG

Jenny, an organiser with Cambridge Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, said outside the bank: “We see our demands as being interconnected because the oppression of many people around the world, generally not of rich Western countries, is tied up with climate change.”

A member of the Organisation of Radical Cambridge Activists said: “What we’re trying to achieve is to make people divest from Barclays, that is change their account to other banks that are committing not to invest in those kinds of genocidal activities.”

Just Stop Oil were also present at the occupation, saying: “Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are suffering utterly unimaginable atrocities. Meanwhile, Barclays is rolling in profits from the billions they lend to kill, be that through arms or oil.”

Barclays said it was committed to respecting human rights as defined by the International Bill of Human Rights.

A Barclays spokesman said: “As a universal bank, Barclays provides a range of client services in relation to the shares of publicly listed companies, including those in the Defence and Security sector.

“Such client-driven activities may result in Barclays holding shares in those companies, for example, through hedging positions, market making, custody and underwriting activity.

“Barclays does not itself intend to make any direct strategic equity investments in the Defence and Security sector.”

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