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The student newspaper of Imperial College London

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Felix

Issue 1850 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London


Keep the Cat Free


Encampment shuts down ahead of Summer Ball

Students declare Wednesday ‘our last night for the time being’.

Encampment Closure Photo: Walt Gao for Felix

News

in Issue 1850

The encampment at Imperial College London shut down on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Summer Ball, exactly four weeks after its establishment.

In an Instagram post published on Thursday evening, the group behind the occupation of Queen’s Lawn said: ‘Last night was our final night for the time being. We have decided that the encampment has served its purpose of growing and solidifying the student movement for Palestine and expelling Zionism from our campus.’

The group has faced allegations of discrimination for its stance on Zionism, which it has strongly denied, saying that ‘anyone of any faith or ethnicity’ who opposes ‘the slaughter’ in Gaza is welcome to join it.

Activists had earlier agreed to step aside for the annual student ball, which will take place this Saturday on the land that the encampment was occupying.

Encampment closure Photo: Walt Gao for Felix
The encampment shut down on Thursday 20th June ahead of Summer Ball.

Two weeks ago, they released a statement saying that they would ‘facilitate the summer ball going ahead’, explaining that the event was delivered by Imperial College Union (ICU), with whom they had no quarrel.

They said: ‘The ICU showed care for the mental and physical wellbeing of the campers as well as the impact camping has had on our studies… [We view] the ICU operations as essential to us.’

A representative of the encampment told Felix this week: “The plan is that we’re going to put our tents to the side on Thursday so that Summer Ball can go ahead.”

On Thursday afternoon, campers packed up their equipment, following a final rally at which they repeated calls for Imperial to cut ties with companies they say are supporting Israel’s war effort in Gaza.

Competing against the din of construction workers setting up for this weekend’s festivities, a crowd of 45 activists staged their final demonstration on Queen’s Lawn.

They chanted: “Imperial College, blood on your hands,” and, “We are all anti-Zionists” – in defiance of a ban from the university on the use of that slogan. Encampment activists have maintained that they are allowed by law to express that they are anti-Zionist and say the university is acting in an “authoritarian” manner by attempting to stop them.

At around 1:30pm, they walked to the Faculty Building to repeat their demands outside the offices of the university’s senior leadership team.

Encampment closure Photo: Walt Gao for Felix

The dismantling of the encampment at Imperial follows a host of closures around the country that come as the academic year draws to a close.

Durham Students for Palestine announced that their encampment would “conclude” on Friday 21st June, two days before the date requested by Durham’s University Secretary. The university has committed to review its investment policy and said it will work towards rebuilding Palestine’s higher education sector, but students say many of their demands ‘remain unmet’.

At the London School of Economics, students dismantled their tents on Monday after the university secured a court order forcing them to leave. The University of Birmingham announced on 11th June that it was seeking a court order to expel activists from university land.

Some encampments closed earlier after students secured the commitments they desired from their institutions.

In May, Goldsmiths University agreed to create an installation to memorialise the student occupation on its campus and to name a building after the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli forces while reporting on the Gaza conflict.

Goldsmiths said it would deliver ‘support to rebuild universities and scholarships in Gaza’, review its investment policy, and review ‘the impact’ of its definitions of antisemitism and Islamophobia on ‘the life of the College’

So far, Imperial College London has not agreed to the demands of students, who have called for actions including the condemnation of Israel’s war effort in Gaza, divestment from companies they claim are complicit in ‘crimes against Palestinians,’ and commitments to help rebuild Gaza’s higher education system.

Imperial maintains that commenting on ‘geopolitical events that are not directly connected to [its] core mission’ would undermine its ability to provide ‘an open forum for debate and exploration of all topics.’

It says that all of its investments comply with its Socially Responsible Investment Policy, which commits Imperial to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment.

Last month, the College announced it would fund and host eight fellowships for academics at risk in their home countries. Pro-Palestinian activists, who last met with College representatives on 23rd May, have said these commitments do not go far enough.

In its Instagram post on Thursday, the group behind the encampment said: ‘We now feel comfortable moving onto the next phase of escalation and applying pressure onto university administration… Our 5 key demands remain the same… we will not compromise on any one of them.’


How did Felix estimate the crowd size for this article?

The crowd-size figure given in this piece was obtained by counting the number of protest participants in photographs of the demonstrations.

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