UK universities brace for 'Gaza solidarity encampments' after US crackdown on campuses

A protest at the University of Newcastle on Wednesday (Newcastle Apartheid off Campus / X)
A protest at the University of Newcastle on Wednesday (Newcastle Apartheid off Campus / X)

Pro-Palestinian activists at British universities have begun establishing Gaza ‘solidarity encampments’ following similar demonstrations in the US in recent days.

Among universities where protest encampments were due to take place on Wednesday included Bristol, Newcastle and Sheffield.

It comes amid high-profile clashes between police and pro-Palestine activists at several leading universities in the US, including at Columbia and UCLA.

A group calling itself Newcastle Apartheid Off Campus said it was setting up an encampment at the university’s main campus to protest “the Israeli military’s war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank”.

Video footage showed several tents emblazoned with Palestinian flags, with organisers pledging a rally at 5pm.

Students with a pro-Palestinian group at Bristol also said they had established their own camp protest at the Royal Fort Gardens in the centre of the university’s campus, although pictures appeared to only show three tents.

Signs next to tents read: “Nobody is free until Palestine is free” and “UOB you have blood on your hands”.

Several tents also appeared at the University of Leeds, opposite its Students’ Union building.

A spokesperson for sector body Universities UK said: “Universities are monitoring the latest news on campus protests in the US and Canada.

“As with any high-profile issue, universities work hard to strike the right balance between ensuring the safety of all students and staff, including preventing harassment, and supporting lawful free speech on campus.

“We continue to meet regularly to discuss the latest position with university leaders.”

Separately, three people were arrested as police dealt with a “number of protests” in London on Wednesday.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered outside the Department of Business and Trade to demand the Government stop issuing arms licences that allow the sale of military equipment and technology to Israel.

In the United States, similar campus protests have sometimes descended into anarchic scenes.

Activists at UCLA traded in fistfights and shoving, kicking and using sticks to beat one another during protests on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, hours earlier, police carrying riot shields burst into a building at Columbia University that pro-Palestinian protesters took over and broke up a demonstration, arresting dozens.