BWG News: UK Students Occupy Campus
Buildings In Support Of Gaza
Student Protest : The Spirit
of '68 is Reawakening
Campus sit-ins began as a response to the Gaza attacks,
but unrest is already spilling over to other issues. Emily
Sunday, 8 February 2009
They are the iPod generation of students: politically
apathetic, absorbed by selfish consumerism, dedicated to a
few years of hedonism before they land a lucrative job in
the City. Not any more. A seismic change is taking
place in British universities.
Around the UK, thousands of
students have occupied lecture theatres, offices and other
buildings at more than 20 universities in sit-down protests. It
seems that the spirit of 1968 has returned to the campus.
While it was the situation in Gaza that triggered this mass
protest, the beginnings of political enthusiasm have already
spread to other issues.
John Rose, one of the original London School of Economics (LSE)
students to mount the barricades alongside Tariq Ali in 1968,
spent last week giving lectures on the situation in Gaza at 12
of the occupations.
"This is something different to anything we've seen for
a long time," he said. "There is genuine fury at
what Israel did".
"I think it's highly likely that this year
will see more student action. What's interesting is the
nervousness of vice chancellors and their willingness to concede
demands; it indicates this is something that could well turn
into [another] '68."
Beginning with a 24-hour occupation at the School of Oriental
and African Studies (SOAS) on 13 January, the sit-ins spread
across the country. Now occupations have been held at the LSE,
Essex, King's College London, Birmingham, Sussex, Warwick,
Manchester Metropolitan, Oxford, Leeds, Cambridge, Sheffield
Hallam, Bradford, Nottingham, Queen Mary, Manchester,
Strathclyde, Newcastle, Kingston, Goldsmiths and Glasgow.
Among the demands of students are disinvestment in the arms
trade; the promise to provide scholarships for Palestinian
students; a pledge to send books and unused computers to
Palestine; and to condemn Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Technology has set these actions apart from those of previous
generations, allowing a national momentum to grow with
incredible speed. Through the linking up of internet blogs, news
of successes spread quickly and protests grew nationwide.
Just three weeks after the first sit-in at SOAS, students
gathered yesterday at Birkbeck College to draw up a national
strategy. The meeting featured speeches from leaders in the Stop
the War movement, such as Tony Benn, George Galloway MP and
Jeremy Corbyn MP. There has also been an Early Day Motion tabled
in Parliament in support of campus activism.
At the end of the month students from across the country will
gather for a national demonstration calling for the abolition of
tuition fees, an event that organisers say has rocketed in size
following the success of the occupations over Gaza.
Vice chancellors and principals have been brought to the
negotiating table and – in the majority of universities – bowed
to at least one of the demands. The students' success means that
now there is a new round of protests. On Wednesday two new
occupations began at Strathclyde and Manchester universities,
and on Friday night students at the University of Glasgow also
launched a sit-in.
Emily Dreyfus, a 21-year-old political activist in her third
year of reading classics at Oxford, was one of around 80
students to occupy the historic Bodleian library building in the
city and demand that the university issue a statement condemning
the Gaza attacks and disinvest from the arms trade. She said: "I
found Oxford politically very dead when I arrived, but it's
completely different now. There seem to be more and more people
talking about politics, which is so exciting. It's really been
aided by the communication tools we've got, things like
Wes Streeting, the president of the National Union of Students,
said: "What we've seen over the Gaza issue is a resurgence of a
particular type of protest: the occupation. It's a long time
since we've seen student occupations on such a scale. It's about
time we got the student movement going again and had an impact."
Establishments that have not previously been known for their
activism have also become involved. Fran Legg was one of several
students to set up the first Stop the War Coalition at Queen
Mary, a research-focused university in London, a month ago. Now
they are inundated with interest.
"Action on this scale among students hasn't been seen since
the Sixties and Seventies," she said.
"This is going to go down in history as a new round of student
mobilisation and it will set a precedent. Gaza is the main issue
at the moment, but we're looking beyond the occupation; we're
viewing it as a springboard for other protests and to set up a
committee to make sure the university only invests ethically."
As the first generation of students to pay substantial direct
fees to universities, their negotiating power has also been
strengthened. Their concern over their college's investments
have been given new legitimacy because it is partly their money.
Ms Legg said: "For the first time, you've got students getting
principals to the negotiation table, saying they don't want
their tuition fees funding war. Everybody wants to know where
their money is going."
The activist: 'Students will see they can
Katan Alder, 22, student leader speaking
the occupation at Manchester University
"We've been occupying the university since
Wednesday. More than 500 people came to an emergency Students'
Union meeting and we took the vice chancellor's administration
block that afternoon. Israel's assault on Gaza made people
angry, and we heard about the occupations at other universities
through blogs. This is the biggest student campaign we've had
and it's also the most wide-reaching. We'll stay until the
university lets us meet with the vice chancellor. I think
students will see they can take action on more issues, such as
the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the education system; the
Government's refusal to stop the marketisation of education has
provoked a lot of anger."
The '68 veteran: 'It changed our lives'
John Rose, 63, former student organiser at the London School of
Economics in 1968; now a lecturer and
author on the Middle East
"I arrived at the LSE in '66 as an
extremely naive liberal student and I left in '69 as a
revolutionary socialist. It changed our lives. I was one of the
student organisers with Tariq Ali and attended all the
demonstrations and occupations. We did think a revolution was
coming; we thought mass action of students might overthrow
capitalism and bring genuine equality. It took us some time to
realise that wasn't going to happen.
"It wasn't just about rioting and having fun, it was political
argument that probed all the assumptions about the world. It was
a highly intense period and the memory stays powerfully with
anyone involved; it's the memory of those times that has kept me
"It was a feeling of fantastic elation: we began to realise that
mass action could change things. Once it started, we developed a
taste for it and began to consider mass activity as a way of
doing politics, which is what's happening now. People are fed up
with bankers, politicians and elite institutions. Hundreds of us
thought the revolution was coming in '69, but maybe the
revolution is coming now."
1968 and all that.
Sunday, 8 February 2009 at 05:43 am (UTC)
Keep it going. The Sixties were great. I'm in my own sixties
now, but I'm still for the revolution that failed then, but
whose spirit has always remained with me, though I may never
live to see it. I've been appalled by the years of consumerism
and celebrity-culture and the deadening homogenisation and
conformity it has produced in every sphere of life. Capitalism
kills the human spirit no less than state-communism. Viva la
power to the people
Sunday, 8 February 2009 at 10:56 am (UTC)
Haven't felt so enthusiastic about the old phrases since the mid
Students need to get back to politics. The early demonstrations
etc have lead to so many changes acros the world (Ask Nelson
Mandela) but still so much to do!
Sunday, 8 February 2009 at 02:48 pm (UTC)
i DETEST being called 'the iPod generation'
but it's a great article otherwise, and makes me proud to have
been a part of this movement! 2009 will be the year students and
young people take charge and fix the world :)
IM GETTING TIRED OF ISRAEL'S PROBLEM
Sunday, 8 February 2009 at 04:03 pm (UTC)
I walk the streets of the uk every day wondering if me or a
member of my family will be blown up by a Palestinian bomber
taking revenge on the uk for our governments support for the
oppressive Israeli regime. Its time we ended arms sales to this
country and demand the freedom for the 1.5 million gazans
trapped behind a barbed wire fence on their own land. We have
already seen one Palestinian bomber try to blow up manchester
airport. How many British and American civilians have to dye
before we liberate our governments from zionist control and the
bogus Israeli war on terror foreign policy?. NOTHING HAS CHANGED
SINCE OBAMA TOOK OFFICE AND THE PRESS ARE FAILING AT CONVINCING
US ANYTHING HAS CHANGED IN AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY!
Re: IM GETTING TIRED OF ISRAEL'S PROBLEM
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 at 12:29 am (UTC)
our economic situation isn't good, so not selling is only going
to make it worse
Re: IM GETTING TIRED OF ISRAEL'S PROBLEM
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 at 11:42 am (UTC)
Economic situation isn't everything, political decency is
vitally important as well. The USA is now desperately trying to
improve its international standing after the Bush years
destroyed the worlds opinion of the States, and the same thing
will happen to Britain if we put wealth ahead of ethics. I would
rather see the arms trade in the UK severely curtailed rather
than live in a country that supports illegal oppression of a
group of people based on their race, religion and political
opinion as is happening in Gaza at the hands of the Israelis.
This is a spirit of young generations
Sunday, 8 February 2009 at 07:05 pm (UTC)
This is a sprite of young people marked of purity ,they should
open doors for theme and try understand them, this spirit comes
by long time of ignorance from institutions and universities. In
resent time world becomes like a small village nothing to hide.
Thank God for the Independent
Sunday, 8 February 2009 at 08:58 pm (UTC)
I love this newspaper so much. True journalism -telling the
truth, not being afraid to talk about the truth and being
objective, talking about both sides of the story fairly. I think
it's fantastic students are realising and embracing their
political voice and not being afraid to air it. The key is,
students pay the universities for their education and therefore
they are key stakeholders in how the university conducts itself.
I understand that when the emergency meeting was held at the
student union at manchester university, students were being
physically prevented from entering the room so as to prevent
them from voting for the uni to publicly condemn Israel's
actions in Gaza. No reasonable person can object to their at
least being a debate on the issues. Those who prevent the debate
surely have something to hide or know that they have a poor
Monday, 9 February 2009 at 12:10 am (UTC)
This is the best news I've seen for ages. We've screwed up big
time and the sooner the next generation realises that radical
action is needed and they are the ones to make it happen the
Movement spreads to the US
Monday, 9 February 2009 at 02:55 am (UTC)
Gaza Solidarity sit-in at the University of Rochester in the US
declares victory in less than 9 hours! see
Monday, 9 February 2009 at 11:06 am (UTC)
Better late than never. With all the information tools available
today there is no excuse for not being informed. The problem is
sorting out the truth from the misinformation.
Also the student movement in the 1960's got infiltrated by
Intel, especially in the States, and they led them off into
drugs, sex and rock'n roll. They also made fools of themselves
by supporting communism. So there are a lot of lessons to be
learnt from that.
I can remember at school in Liverpool around 1971 there was
still this anarchic feeling and a lot of kids were psuedo
Marxists and Trotskyites that hated the US. I could never
understand how someone could think that the Soviet Union was
better than the US myself.
Now I know that Communism was in fact financed by the capitalist
bankers. So beware of who wants to know you.
Re: About time
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 06:51 am (UTC)
Yes, ...I was in the U.K. then and you guys had Vietnam to deal
with but I still remember mysterious types in the Student Union
or at parties waving Mao's Little Red Book about, and me (under
an assumed name, hahahaha!) subscribing to "The Anarchist
Weekly." Not so silly, as one of my very gentle intellectual
anarchist friends told me - the offices were always being raided
for lists of subscribers. (And what, pray, did they do with
I read "Das Kapital" at 15 and it seemed to have a lot of
commonsense. I was about to join the British Communist Party but
naively told my mother, who freaked, saying the British
Communist party was "directed" from Russia (I conceded it might
have been) - but she was mostly distraught because I was being
groomed for an acting career and she was horror struck that, oh
dear, the U.S. would never allow me in to play on Broadway!
Maybe that was her excuse.
The mid sixties and early seventies were fun, though! I sang
Joan Baez songs after High school in a Folk Club with my friend
Nick on guitar and went around in bare feet. My daughter can't
believe I sometimes actually ironed my hair. Oh, nostalgia for
the 60's and early seventies! Weren't we lucky to live through
all that? (I think so anyway.) Beatlemania, freedom! And in
France with my French cousins in '68, all the "manifs", the
riotous, really righteously angry students - who later,
unfortunately became bankers and PDGs.
Go, go, go, students of 2009! Don't let go, don't give in!
Students changed things at Kent State. Young people roared
through the streets and put an end to Vietnam. Oh, the nostalgia
of the music when I watch "Forrest Gump." Go, King's College,
London, my old college! I'm proud of you all and I honour you
with the blue ribbon of Quebec which says, "I make a
Make a difference!
Is it really '68 all over again?!
Monday, 9 February 2009 at 07:44 pm (UTC)
So 20 Universities (out of over 150 Universities and Colleges
across the UK) involving how many students? Let's be generous
and say 100 students at each...
So 2,000 higher education students involved out a total
University population of nearly 3 million... I guess too few
students have too much time on their hands
Wes Streeting opposes the protests
Monday, 9 February 2009 at 08:41 pm (UTC)
This article makes it seem as though Wes Streeting is
championing the student movement. But just last week he was
quoted by CNN as saying this:
"The protesters need to find new ways to campaign vocally
without causing disruption to students on campus" Wes Streeting,
N.U.S. president, told CNN.
NUS president Wes Streeting is certainly not part of the student
protest movement in any way shape or form. A future Labour MP?
most definitely; a student activist with passion and principles?
Protests going global!
Monday, 9 February 2009 at 11:12 pm (UTC)
Groups in more than 20 countries on 5 continents stood together
during the "International day of action against the
Commercialisation of Education" on Nov.5th 2008. You can access
a presentation summarizing all the actions on that day here:
Furthermore groups around the world protested for free (and
emancipating) public education and against the commercialisation
of education in the year 2008. I attempted to list most of them
As a result of the co-ordination efforts ahead of the
international day of action a loose network was created, which
now calls itself the "International Students Movement" (because
most groups involved are dominated by students, but of course it
is open to all social groups struggling against the
commercialisation of education and for free and emancipating
public education; i.e. teachers, parents, pupils, workers,...).
Regular international chat conferences help to co-ordinate
Coming up next: "Reclaim your Education - Global Week of Action
2009" in April (20/04 - 29/04).
For more details regarding the Global Week of Action visit this
What activists are working on now is to unite groups and
movements around the world and promote the global perspective of
the struggle. In the end they aim to increase the political
pressure on a global scale and get governments to implement free
public education systems, that are based on an emancipating
approach and are accessible to all.
Platforms such as their own website with many forums
(http://emancipating-education-for-all.org) help as well.
So far groups in Bangladesh, the Philippines, France, Spain,
Indonesia, Germany, Canada, the UK, Australia, Italy, the
Netherlands, Turkey, Luxembourg, Egypt, Ghana, the U.S. of A.,
Burundi, Togo and Liberia confirmed their interest in the week
The current list of supporters can be accessed here:
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 at 10:02 am (UTC)
I'm proud to have NOT been involved in this. So, they are
opposing occupation by... Occupying? That's stupid. At least
call it something else, like a 'sit-in' or something. I don't
know what they're trying to achieve, either? Awareness for
Palestine? Not required. Israel to suddenly disappear? Not going
to happen. I just don't see the point. They just want the
self-satisfaction of feeling like they've helped the poor
'Palestinians' and not sat there and done nothing, which is
probably just as effective to them.
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 03:59 pm (UTC)
with your way of thinking no wonder the world is the way it
is. at least they tried something. ur way of thinking is
exactly what they want u to think. that they have brainwashed ur
little mind into thinking that u can't do anything. I hope
anyone between the ages of 16-30 start acting in revolts. thats
the only way we can get ourselves out of this situation we r in.
we sit in our little corners complaining about whats going on
instead of acting on it. they r young and have a right to
determine their future. and i applaud their action. for they r
power to the people....if i could make a fist up in the air i
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 at 10:52 am (UTC)
What the students are doing is amazing! They're putting their
own lifes on hold for justice, and I respect every single one of
them. I hope people give them a more positive response though,
show their support in whatever ways possible, because a lt of
the universities aren't respnsing and simply ignoring them,
waiting for them to give up and go home, how sad it is to see a
world that has chosen to ignore such a serious situation, a
country that gets away not just with murder but with absolutely
everything under the sun, a country that has broken all human
rights laws....and everyone is still supporting them, making the
crisis over there look equal, all i can say is weigh up the
numbers and find some channels and newspapers who aren't run by
america and israel, talking more about our 2inch sno situation
than this massacre that's taking place. THANKS AGAIN TO ALL
THESE STUDENTS WHO ARE DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT AND ALL THOSE
PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPORTING THEM!
Proud not to be involved? And...?
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 at 10:58 am (UTC)
If you're proud *not* to be involved in this, then it's
obviously no great loss to the student movement. Why on earth
would the student activists want someone who doesn't give a toss
about peace and justice for an oppressed people?
Shame on the lazy university students in Manchester
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 at 01:41 pm (UTC)
Anti-democratic students occupy the University of Manchester to
protest against... occupation! They deny other students the
necessary peace of mind we need to study in the name of
political awareness. It sounds great but the trouble is that
they hardly display any kind of political awareness themselves.
Quite the opposite, they scream and behave as if they were
watching a soap opera or "Big Brother". No analysis, no
distance, bias, hatred, hypocrisy and fallacy is what I heard at
the meeting at UMIST last week. We are still a few to rely on
critical thinking rather than group thinking but we are vastly
outnumbered. Shame on them, intellectually lazy students. "The
spirit of '68 is reawakening": clearly NOT.
Re: Proud not to be involved? And...?
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 at 05:36 pm (UTC)
"They deny other students the necessary peace of mind we need to
study in the name of political awareness. It sounds great but
the trouble is that they hardly display any kind of political
I'm a university student in the states involved with a number of
groups working in my local community to offer alternative
dialogue and possible solutions on situations here, such as the
building of more unneccessary jails (an expensive way to turn a
mass public health problem of drug abuse into a criminal issue
for the monetary benefit of a few unimaginative thugs), as well
as working to thwart the issue we have of a new NAFTA
superhighway that NOBODY wants, that does not make sense on any
public level and can only be facilitated through the illegal use
of eminent domain of family farms that have spanned generations.
What I'm getting at is, college students are unaware of even the
issues within their own communities. We also have one of the
biggest business schools in the U.S here on campus. With all the
prescribed social ignorance we have in our universities in the
western world, (and with all the countless hours that college
students are jousing around with partying on the weekends or
generally fucking around) I can't feel too much pity when
widespread social issues that INVOLVE US ALL are brought to the
social surface and that might, if only for a little bit, "deny
other students the necessary peace of mind (they) need to study"
- when a lot of that study is out of touch with reality and
corporate training in the first place.
GET WITH IT!!
I've noticed this phenomenon since as young as I can
remember- when and where is it ever the "right place" to attempt
a stand, if even abstract or even symbolic. Here in the U.S. we
know there is and will be a breakdown of civil order, some of us
are just trying to get the dialogue in motion and lessen the
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 at 05:53 pm (UTC)
Well done independent for being here!!, it's almost soul
destroying looking at the lack of coverage on the revolt of the
UK against israel's racist policies.
Truely israel with all it's friends in "the spin" industry have
made the biggest own goal with the Gaza massacre, they are in
total shock at the reaction of the globe.
People rise and be counted, a change is a coming!
Activism does make a
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 at 09:24 pm (UTC)
I hear over and over a pessimistic attitude toward the activism
of the 60's. Lots of people go on and on how it was just a waste
of time, and they were all just hypocrites and dreamers. The
truth however, is that the activism of the 60's did work, and
the world to this day has never gotten over it, and I hope it
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 at 11:50 pm (UTC)
A total boycot of all Israelian goods is much more effective
than sit-ins or protests. Israhel has never acted upon protests
or international condemnation.
Don't pay attention
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 05:41 am (UTC)
Don't make a hero of zero. just ignore them and don't let
another 68s useless generation lookalike take on the power. they
are all from the same school - self-indulging spoiled
generation, hungry for fame and power. they say they know what
is good for us' they want to make a better future for 'all of
(out of) us,
... whateve. remember that the old geezers in power today. they
are from the same 68 generation. and look wher the h**l we are
Soul of Capitalism
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 06:39 am (UTC)
I recommend the book: The Soul of Capitalism by William Greider,
in it he basically says that people will have to use the power
of where they put their money to control the political outcomes
of the future. We know that politics is run by the money now
lets use that power.
the sixties was a failure.... the people who came out of the
sixties went on to feed the beast by indescriminate consumerism
and investment in the war machine. Learn where your money is
going, every dime you spend.
We don't need radical action so much as we need conscious
No tuition fees?
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 07:14 am (UTC)
Who is going to teach the students then - volunteers? I support
their protests for the disaster in Gaza, but how did the 'going
cheaper' become involved in 'let's save them' story?
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 07:28 am (UTC)
It's about time the budding leaders and intelligentsia started
to get involved in what is really happening in this world,
instead of being told take it or leave it. The last two
Governments have been shocking in their sleaze and the last one,
also for their weakness and deception.
Bring in the New Energy!
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 11:40 am (UTC)
The rise of the indigo children is here! The children ARE our
future! Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Kick NWO A**
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 02:13 pm (UTC)
We Americans are pathetic. We need a revolution. Sing it again,
Hamas murdered Palestinians - Will the students be protesting
Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 05:59 am (UTC)
Amnesty International issued a report detailing Hamas violence
against Palestinians during Israel?s military operation in the
Gaza Strip. In its report, the human rights organization states
that AT LEAST TWO DOZEN MEN WERE SHOT DEAD BY HAMAS GUNMEN, AND
MANY MORE WERE KNEECAPPED OR OTHERWISE TORTURED during and after
Israel's military operation. It also confirms media reports that
SOME VICTIMS HAD BEEN EXECUTED IN HOSPITALS WHEN THEY WERE BEING
TREATED FOR WOUNDS.
political debate in public
Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 08:52 am (UTC)
It is not a moment too soon to express the horror of what we see
happening to the Palestinians as a result of Israel's inhuman
policies. Over the Christmas period, it was shocking that
everyone went around celebrating and wishing each other merry
Christmas and going on as if the massacre of the Palestinians
was the most normal thing in the world.
All I can say is that I am glad that the attitude has changed.
Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 04:01 pm (UTC)
surely you should be more concerned of the nearly 1500 massacred
by the nazi idf army, rather than your crocodile tears for what
Hamas is up to.
zionists like you are pathetic!
The year that rocked the world
Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 05:08 pm (UTC)
Mark Kurlansky's book of that title is the best I've read about
those times. Chennior, I'm with you. Yes, my g-g-generation! But
having spent 2 years in the US during the runup to the election,
I met some engaged and engaging young people who reminded me
very much of our cohort.
Viva la humanidad!
Above article and comments at THE
Guardian Co UK:
Students Angered By Gaza Revive Sit-Ins