Goldsmiths students occupy library as US Gaza campus protests spread to London and across UK

Pro-Palestinian protests broke out at universities across Britain on Thursday following violent demonstrations at campuses in the US.

At Goldsmiths University in London students stormed the library and occupied the first two floors overnight.

Students in Leeds, Newcastle and Bristol also set up tents outside college buildings as Gaza campus protests spread to the UK.

In the capital, the Goldsmiths for Palestine group barricaded the library and unveiled a Palestinian flag and list of demands written on a sheet.

Slogans on posters outside the building read “Decolonisation is not a metaphor”, “Shut Down 4 Palestine” and, controversially, “From The River to the Sea”.

Pro-Palestinian protesters face off with officers near an encampment at UCLA in the US (REUTERS)
Pro-Palestinian protesters face off with officers near an encampment at UCLA in the US (REUTERS)

The group said it wanted a meeting with the school’s management who it would pressure on “more scholarships for Palestinian students, revoking of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and scrapping the protest guidelines and use of bodycams at student protests”.

In a statement, it added: “Goldsmiths must be rid of its complicity in genocide. Management must be held accountable.”

A member of staff confirmed the protest was ongoing, but when the Standard visited there appeared to be only two people present at the makeshift sit-in, while other students were continuing with their studies.

The latest demonstration follows the five-week occupation of the university’s Professor Stuart Hall Building in February and March by the group.

Bristol students said they staged the action “in protest of the university’s complicity in Israel’s genocide of Palestinians”, while Apartheid Off Campus Newcastle said its demonstration was to “highlight the institution’s investment strategy and its complicity in the Israeli military’s war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank”.

One camp, at Warwick University, has been set up in the piazza for a week. The groups have called on their universities to divest from Israel in response to its military operation in the Gaza Strip.

This would mean selling off stock in Israeli companies or otherwise dropping financial ties. Supporters have been asked to donate food, drinks and hygiene products.

Images shared by the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign showed large groups of students gathering on campuses, alongside tents and banners on prominent areas of the universities.

The makeshift sit-in at Goldsmiths (ES)
The makeshift sit-in at Goldsmiths (ES)

Edward Isaacs, president of the Union of Jewish Students, said: “This year, Jewish students have been continually facing anti-Semitic hatred on campus. Since October 7, Jewish students have experienced an unprecedented volume of abuse and prejudice directed against them.”

A spokesman for Goldsmiths, University of London said: “From the start of the conflict we have prioritised the safety and support of all students and staff. We recognise that people hold strong views over the war and uphold their right to freely express themselves while being clear about the need to be respectful and within the law.

“We are in dialogue with students over these issues and are fully committed to working together to put in place meaningful support for those affected by the war.

“This includes pledging £120,000 a year to humanitarian scholarships for Palestinian students to study with us and developing ways of supporting the rebuilding of universities and education in the region.”

The UK protests follow violent clashes at campuses across the US, most prominently at Columbia University in New York and the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).

More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested across America and hundreds of pro-Palestinian students remain behind barricades on the UCLA campus despite police orders to leave.

Officers are poised to move in on the fortified encampment ringed by an even larger crowd, including supporters who locked arms.

Huge numbers of police began arriving on Wednesday afternoon, and empty buses were parked near UCLA to take away protesters who do not comply with the order.

The tense stand-off came one night after violence instigated by counter-protesters erupted in the same place.