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

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Imperial takes down Palestine poster exhibition hours before Summer Ball

Activists had secured permission for a poster display from College security and the student union, on the condition that it was deemed non-offensive.

Summer Ball Photo: IC Liberation Zone/Instagram


in Issue 1850

Imperial College London removed posters put up by pro-Palestinian activists from the wall surrounding Queen’s Tower shortly before Saturday afternoon’s Summer Ball.

Student activists had secured the permission of the student union – which organised Summer Ball – and university security, to exhibit posters during the event.

Imperial College Union agreed that some posters could remain on the wall so long as they were deemed by the university to be non-offensive, but did not endorse any of the activists’ messages.

Hours before the ball, College security removed the entire display, telling the students that it was ‘unauthorised’.

It is understood that the posters breached Imperial’s code of conduct, which states that university property is ‘for the safe and enjoyable use of all our community’.

The code of conduct stipulates that Imperial’s campuses, property and facilities ‘should be treated with respect’, ‘used for their designated purposes and not intentionally or recklessly damaged or defaced.’

Activists say that they were standing next to the poster display when they were called into a meeting with campus security. While the meeting took place, they claim that other security staff removed the posters. Imperial College London did not respond to a request for comment.

In a post on Instagram, the group IC Action for Palestine accused Imperial of censorship and said the university was ‘suppressing student voices’.

Summer Ball takes place every year on Queen’s Lawn. Until last week, the lawn was occupied by pro-Palestinian activists, who had set up an encampment to pressure the university into meeting their demands. They want Imperial to agree to a set of pledges including divestment from companies they say are fuelling Israel’s military effort in Gaza.

The activists dismantled their encampment on Thursday in order for Summer Ball to proceed. Imperial College Union agreed that campers could leave behind posters and banners for the duration of Summer Ball, provided they were not offensive.

The signs, secured to the temporary construction wall surrounding Queen’s Tower, displayed messages including calls for a free Palestine and a ceasefire. One poster labelled Israel a terrorist state and another proclaimed: ‘Long live the student intifada’.

In October last year, Imperial College Union forbade the student Marxist society from using the slogan ‘Intifada until victory’ after receiving a complaint from students.

Other signs highlighted the destruction of Palestine’s higher education system and Imperial’s research ties to companies that have designed weapons Israel has deployed in the Gaza Strip.

On Thursday, the university ordered security staff to take down banners at the exhibition that were in breach of a ban on anti-Zionist slogans. But a miscommunication between the College and on-duty security officers resulted in all the signs on the wall being removed.

Student activists were subsequently allowed to redisplay all signs but those referencing Zionism.

On Saturday afternoon, campus security told the students the entire exhibition was ‘unauthorised’ and would therefore be removed. A single poster that listed their demands was allowed to remain for Summer Ball before being removed on Sunday.

At Summer Ball itself, students wore Palestinian keffiyeh and a group dancing near the main stage on Queen’s Lawn waved bunting bearing the Palestinian flag.

Acts performing on the night referenced the student protests and Imperial’s response.

Pxssy Palace, a collective that organises club nights for minority groups, dedicated part of its set to the now-ended encampment at Imperial. A Pxssy Palace DJ criticised the university for banning anti-Zionist slogans and said: “Fuck Zionism,” before leading the audience in chants of “End the occupation now”.

Zionism is a movement that advocates the right of Jewish people to self-determination and supports the development and protection of the State of Israel.

Pro-Palestinian activists at Imperial have called for the ‘full exclusion of Zionists on campus.’ They say that Zionism is ‘a political movement that to this day employs policies of apartheid, occupation, ethnic cleansing, colonialism, and genocide.’

Other students have railed against such descriptions of Zionism and called efforts to exclude Zionists from campus antisemitic – charges vehemently rejected by pro-Palestinian activists at Imperial who say ‘anyone of any faith or ethnicity’ is welcome to their events.

One student described Zionism as “Jewish nationalism” and “the hope to be in our homeland.”

Imperial banned use of anti-Zionist slogans earlier this month, saying that it had ‘received several complaints from members of staff and others who consider the use of these words to be antisemitic, harassing and upsetting.’

The College conducted raids on the Queen’s Lawn encampment to remove slogans that violated its ban, angering activists who said Imperial was acting in an “authoritarian” manner.

At the end of a set by student acapella group Nth Harmonic, a performer spoke to the audience and accused Imperial of making freedom of speech “punishable on this campus”. The performer called on students to “hold our leaders accountable”.

Imperial has previously said that its investments are made in accordance with its Socially Responsible Investment Policy, which makes it a signatory to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment. Its research relationships are governed by its Relationships Policy, legislative requirements, and the provisions of the National Security & Investment Act 2021.

Israel launched its military campaign in Gaza after Hamas killed 1,200 people and took 251 hostages in southern Israel on 7th October last year.

At least 37,000 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to Palestinian officials from Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

This article was updated on 27/06/2024 to reflect that permission for posters was conditional on the display being deemed non-offensive by the university, which is responsible for ensuring the campus abides by free speech laws. Imperial College Union did not endorse the messages of the pro-Palestinian activists who displayed posters on the wall surrounding Queens Tower.

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