Student sit-in for Gaza

STUDENTS at Essex University mounted a sit-in at its Wivenhoe campus to make a series of demands in relation to the Gaza conflict.

Roddy Ashworth

STUDENTS at Essex University mounted a sit-in at its Wivenhoe campus to make a series of demands in relation to the Gaza conflict.

Around 60 students occupied the recently-opened Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall on Friday before moving to the older Lecture Theatre Block (LTB), where they remained over the weekend.

Activists demanded that the university should issue a public statement condemning the Israeli occupation of Gaza, as well as creating three more scholarships for Palestinian students.

They also called for co-operation in fundraising for the war-torn region and urged the university to send any unused text books, computing equipment and other educational aids to the area.

The final demand was that none of the students involved in the occupation should face disciplinary action as a result of the protest.

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Mark Bergfeld, 22, a third year student reading philosophy, politics and economics, said that around 200 people had been involved in the occupation throughout the weekend, which was mounted to show solidarity with students in the occupied Gaza Strip.

Mr Bergfeld - who is also participation and involvement officer at the university's Student Union (SU) - said the direct action taken was spontaneous and not part of an official campaign.

Throughout the weekend protestors distributed leaflets, welcomed guest speakers to talk about the conflict and hung posters and banners on the wall of the lecture theatre.

Meanwhile SU president Dominic Kavakeb kept up a dialogue between protestors and the university authorities.

“As an individual I support the aims of these students, but it is not an SU campaign,” he said.

“The reason I am with the students is that I feel I have a responsibility to make sure they are okay, and also to keep open a line of negotiation with the university authorities.”

Meanwhile Peter Lynn, Professor of Survey Methodology at the university and Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate for Colchester, said he supported the student campaign.

Prof Lynn said: “I respect the gesture of the students at Essex University, and at other universities around the country, in occupying a building in support of Palestinian students.

“We should all care about our fellow human beings, even if they are thousands of miles away.”

A spokeswoman for Essex University said: “A small number of students have occupied a lecture theatre in the LTB on the Colchester campus.

“Their protest has been conducted in an orderly manner and has not disrupted other activities.

“The registrar of the university, Dr Tony Rich, met with representatives of the group and the SU on Friday.

“The university will work with student representatives to investigate how we can support humanitarian initiatives in Gaza.”

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