Sunak offers full support to cops if students replicate US protests

Palestine Solidarity Campaign youth and student campaigns officer Stella Swain said: “All the protests so far have been completely peaceful…reports Asian Lite News

The prime minister’s spokesman has said police will “have our full support” if students in the UK try to replicate protests at US universities. More than 1,000 people have been arrested after pro-Palestinian protests on campuses across the US.

And this week, smaller but growing numbers of students have occupied several UK campuses. Students in cities such as Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds have set up tents outside university buildings. And protesters at Goldsmiths, University of London, have occupied the library.

One camp, at Warwick University, has been set up in the town’s piazza for a week. Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said: “We’ve always been clear that people have a right to peaceful and lawful protest – but clearly, people shouldn’t abuse that right to intimidate others, cause unnecessary disruption.”

Protest organisers said they want their universities to divest from Israel in response to its deadly military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign youth and student campaigns officer Stella Swain said: “All the protests so far have been completely peaceful.

“There is nothing to indicate that they wouldn’t be.”

And she hoped no politician, regardless of their views on the issue, would want to see police in the UK respond to protesters in the same way as officers in the US.

On Thursday, the Union of Jewish Students said the encampments were creating a “hostile and toxic atmosphere” on campuses.

“It is time that universities take their duty of care to Jewish students seriously,” it added.

But student protesters rejected this characterisation of the demonstrations, telling BBC News Jewish students were camping with them.

Samira, who asked for her surname to be withheld, said Jewish students were “very much a part of” the occupation at her university, Goldsmiths.

“I’m proud that there are Jewish students in the occupation with me and on the marches in central London with me,” she said, adding the pro-Palestinian movement supported “peace and justice”.

Manchester student Sam, who also asked for his surname to be withheld, said their occupation had been co-organised with Jewish students.

Students set up camp in Brunswick Park, near the university’s campus, on Wednesday.

UK universities have in general supported the students’ right to free speech and to protest. Goldsmiths said: “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.”

It was “in dialogue with students over these issues” and was funding scholarships for Palestinian students.

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