Student protests on UK campuses will spread but not get violent, say organisers

Student pro-Palestinian protests will spread across the UK, according to organisers, who do not expect to see any repeat of the violence witnessed at US campuses.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, speaking in Parliament, warned that protesters should be met with “an extremely strict response” if they tried to replicate what she called the “disgusting” scenes happening in the US, where 1,000 students have been arrested.

Asked about antisemitism on British campuses, she said UK universities were aware of their responsibilities to all students, “in particular, those communities that are feeling particularly under attack”.

Ms Mordaunt said: “That is what we expect of them and we hope and expect that they will meet any such notion of similar protests with an extremely strict response.”

Stella Swain, youth and student campaigns officer with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told the PA news agency that more will follow soon.

“Later this week and next, more places will be taking up that call for support,” she said.

“All of the protests so far have been completely peaceful and there is nothing to indicate that they wouldn’t be.

“There would be very little cause for an escalated (police) response.”

She said the UK protests involved students discussing topics such as colonialism and resistance movements, describing the demonstrations as “peaceful but educative events”.

Penny Mordaunt
Penny Mordaunt said UK universities were aware of their responsibilities to all students (PA)

At Newcastle University, students continued to camp out and demonstrate, with one of their aims being to get the organisation to disclose any links to Israeli businesses.

A protest spokesperson said daily 5pm rallies will be held, with around 500 people attending one on Wednesday.

Asked if he was concerned about the scenes at US protests being repeated in the UK, he said: “Thus far it has been civil but we are prepared in case things do heat up.”

Newcastle University said it respected people’s right to protest lawfully.

A spokesperson added: “Working with industry partners is critical in helping us to leverage our world-class research, to advance science and to support the UK’s development through high-value employment and skills.

“Any proposals for defence and security collaborations are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Police in the US gather as they start removing tents erected by protesters from the campus of University of Wisconsin
Police in the US gather as they start removing tents erected by protesters from the campus of University of Wisconsin (Todd Richmond/AP)

It said its daily business had not been affected by the protests.

At Manchester University, an encampment was set up at Brunswick Park on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the university said: “You can be assured that we will do everything possible to maintain business as usual and we urge protesters to act accordingly.

“We are very conscious of the need to ensure that everyone on our campus remains safe and secure and this will be of utmost importance.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman would not comment on protests in the US, but 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.

“Obviously, the police already have extensive public order powers to tackle disorder at protests and will continue to have our full support in doing so if needed.”

Tom Southerden, Amnesty International UK’s law and human rights director, said: “The right to peaceful protest is fundamental to our democracy and it’s vital that UK universities and the police respect and protect peaceful student protests on Gaza.

“Peaceful, student-led protests are an important part of the movement across the globe against Israel’s war crimes, apartheid and possible genocide in Gaza.

“The authorities in the UK must avoid the dangerous clampdown we’ve witnessed at university campuses across the US.”

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