Palestine protesters set up campsite at University of Nottingham and 'will not move until action is taken'

Five pink tents on grass in front of the University of Nottingham's Advanced Manufacturing building at its Jubilee campus, with protest rally in the background with a medium number of people holding flags and banners
The Nottingham Encampment for the Liberation of Palestine protestors say they won't be moving until the University of Nottingham divests -Credit:Nottingham Post

Behind the bike shelters at the entrance to the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus on Derby Road is a section of woodland. Normally, the green grass sways in the breeze and flanks the main road into the site.

On Monday, May 13, it looked a little different. On Friday, May 10, it became a campsite for around two dozen tents, set up by students and those affiliated with the University of Nottingham to "peacefully protest" for the liberation of Palestine.

The encampment, in front of the campus' Advanced Manufacturing Building, is part of what the group describe as a "direct escalation in response to the University of Nottingham continually refusing to cut their ties with the arms trade". Referred to as the NCLP - the Nottingham Encampment for the Liberation of Palestine - there are around 40 residents.

And they’re here for the time being. On entrance to the camp, tied to a tree using fibres, is a large whiteboard split into sections.

On it, campers are divided into working groups. Camp Management, Welfare and Accessibility, Media Liaison, Security Liaison, Logistics and Food are amongst the categories.

Campers have aliases to protect their identity. Cow, Fungas, Lego Brick, Spud and Cereal are amongst the names.

At around 11.50am on Monday, the first weekday the camp has been in operation, outsiders begin to gather in the centre of the grass. Those with a residence here emerge from their temporary domiciles.

Then they walk down to the road, where a rally is taking place. Volunteers hand out face masks so that passing attendees too can protect their identity.

Many campers, who have been here all weekend, are already clad in protective black clothing. One wears a covering that completely shields her face, including her eyes.

The main speaker at the rally is Leila, who also spoke at the emergency Rafah protest that took place outside Nottingham Council House on May 7. She began by chanting and rousing the watching crowd.

"This is solidarity," she said. "This is what community looks like for us and this what democracy looks like for us. We are told that these universities are places for education and places for us to learn and progress and to change the world. But if we genuinely want to change the world as students we need to be able to look at the world and recognise what is wrong with it."

Also present at the rally was the chair of the University of Nottingham's branch of the University and Colleges Union, Andreas Bieler. On Twitter, his bio says he talks about "labour movements and resistance to capitalist exploitation".

"I am extending our solidarity to you and the purpose of the encampment," he said. "We admire your resolve. While so many remain silent, you students have decided to speak up."

The NCLP is making four demands of the University of Nottingham. They are:

● Disclose: Publish financial relations, partnerships and divestments.

● Divest: Cut all ties with companies and institutions complicit in the arms trade and in Israel's action in Palestine.

● Support: Provide scholarships, hardship funds & bursaries for Palestinian students, as well as protecting students' right to protest in support of Palestine.

● Invest: Commit to sending funds and resources to help rebuild Gaza’s infrastructure

The group says that the University of Nottingham's arms trade contracts are worth £43m. It also says that part of the University of Nottingham's manufacturing output is parts for F35 fighter jets, used for Israel's bombing of Palestine.

A third speaker at the rally, called River, said that the encampment would not be moving until action had been taken. Reference was made to around 20 encampments at other universities across the country.

Reference was also made to a particular encampment at Trinity College Dublin, where protestors moved in light of an agreement being made. The College said that it would "complete a divestment from investments in Israeli companies that have activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and appear on the UN blacklist in this regard", which the students celebrated.

"We will not be leaving until the university divests," said River about the University of Nottingham. "But to do this, we will need your help in any way we can. We have the power to change things. It's within our grasp. We will not stop."

A university spokesperson said: "The University of Nottingham upholds freedom of speech and our priority is, and always will be, to ensure that opportunities to engage in debate or protest are safe, inclusive, respectful and responsible. In all the university does, it values inclusivity, ambition, openness, fairness, and respect.

"All academic staff follow rigorous research security, integrity and ethical procedures, and are bound by our own research code of conduct. Research arrangements with industrial partners are constructed fully in line with UK government legislation and the university does not undertake research relating to armaments or weaponry.”