Oxford and Cambridge students launch Gaza encampments on university lawns

Oxford and Cambridge university students on Monday launched Gaza encampments on campuses as protests across UK universities spread.

Videos posted to social media show rows of tents on campus lawns and banners that read: “Welcome to the people’s university for Palestine.”

Tents sprang up outside the University of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum and on the lawn of King’s College at the University of Cambridge on Monday morning.

It follows protests earlier this week across the UK, including at Goldsmiths in London and encampments in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester.

The movement has spread from the US, where thousands of university students were arrested after clashes with police.

A group called Cambridge for Palestine said on Monday it was calling for the university to disclose and divest “from its financial and professional support” of the war in Gaza.

Organisers of the group posted a video on X, formerly Twitter, of their members marching onto the lawn with tents, camping packs and sleeping bags, saying they “refuse to sit idly by”.

A rally is expected to be held in Cambridge at 3pm.

A University of Cambridge spokesperson said: “The University is fully committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech within the law and we acknowledge the right to protest. We ask everyone in our community to treat each other with understanding and empathy. Our priority is the safety of all staff and students.

“We will not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia and any other form of racial or religious hatred, or other unlawful activity.”

In Oxford, 108 lecturers, faculty members and researchers from multiple colleges have signed an open letter, saying they “stand firmly in support of the members of the university community who have begun an encampment outside the Pitt Rivers Museum”.

A spokesman for the University of Oxford told the Telegraph: ”We are aware of the ongoing demonstration by members of our University community. We respect our students and staff members right to freedom of expression in the form of peaceful protests. We ask everyone who is taking part to do so with respect, courtesy and empathy.

“Oxford University’s primary focus is the health and safety of the University community, and to ensure any impact on work, research and learning, including student exams, is minimised.

“As we have stressed in our student and staff communications there is no place for intolerance at the University of Oxford.

“The Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum remain open.”

Rishi Sunak was set to hold a summit with university heads amid concern over pro-Palestinian protests which have triggered more than 2,100 arrests at campuses across the US.

The Prime Minister summoned vice chancellors to Downing Street to seek reassurance that they are tackling antisemitism at their institutions.

On Thursday Pro-Palestinian protesters forced their way into the library at Goldsmiths, University of London and barricaded themselves in, with “From the river to the sea” and “Shut it down for Palestine” banners seen in the windows.

Protests have also been staged at Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Warwick, Newcastle and Sheffield universities this week.