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10th November 2023

Pro-Palestine student groups occupied the Samuel Alexander building overnight

Manchester Leftist Action occupy Samuel Alexander building overnight and engage in National Student Walkout
Pro-Palestine student groups occupied the Samuel Alexander building overnight
Credit: Alexandra Baynes @ The Mancunion

Students from several action groups occupied the Samuel Alexander building at 6 p.m. on November 9. Their occupation was in protest of claims that the University has involvement in the Israeli defence sector, a link the University has denied.

The occupation is understood to have ended at around midday today, November 10. A spokesperson from MCR Leftist Action has told The Mancunion this was the intended timeframe of the occupation.

Credit: Alexandra Baynes @ The Mancunion

The University issued a statement on November 2, stating that “the University of Manchester (including its graphene activities) has no involvement with the Israeli defence sector.”

The students hung banners from the building with the slogans “This building is occupied” and “This is just a warning.” The coalition also held a workshop titled “Stop arming Israel”, which started at the same time as the banners were hung.

They later replaced the banners with one stating “End Graphene warfare.”

At noon on November 10, students gathered under the Whitworth Arch as part of a National Student Walkout against universities’ ties with Israel.

Credit: Jacob Robinson @ The Mancunion

Students and UCU staff representatives were in attendance. Police, police liaison, as well as Campus Support and Security were also present at the walkout.

They then marched from the Whitworth Arch, through the Old Quad, round the front of the Sam Alex and then down Oxford Road to the Graphene Institute.

The crowd shouted chants including “Not in our name.” The speaker commented “Brick by brick, the University is one of the many bricks forming the Israeli apartheid” and “The University of Manchester is not going to put blood before profit.”

The coalition of Pro-Palestine groups consists of Manchester Leftist Action, Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign, University of Manchester Rent Strike, Manchester Palestine Action, and Youth Front for Palestine.

A post on Instagram made by MCR Leftist Action calling for a demonstration at the Whitworth Arch on November 10 gained over 950 likes.

The coalition has five ‘clear and easy’ demands:

  1. For the University to commit to refraining from cooperating with Israeli academic, state, and industrial organisations.
  2. End investments and research collaborations with complicit companies and organisations involved in the arms trade or defence sector.
  3. Adopt clear policies of complete transparency over past, present and future research projects.
  4. Put no pressure on students or staff to participate in research projects involving the arms industry.
  5. Commit to ethical and socially responsible use of graphene, making no deals with companies who don’t do this.

MCR Leftist Action gave an interview on Fuse TV discussing their protest, their demands, and their future courses of action.

A spokesperson for The University of Manchester said: 

“We are aware of a small number of individuals gaining unauthorised access to a University building overnight. Our primary concern is the health and safety of our staff and students, as well as those people who are currently occupying the building. We continue to monitor the situation carefully.

“The group in question are continuing to perpetuate incorrect information. We want to make it clear that The University of Manchester (including its graphene activities) has no involvement with the Israeli defence sector, as published in our statement last week.

“We understand that our University community, particularly those with friends, family or close ties to the region, will be deeply concerned about the escalating violence, loss of life and the dreadful situation in Israel and Palestine. For all those affected, you have our deepest sympathies and support.”

The University Spokesperson also shared the below links

·       Importance of standing together against hate

·       A commitment to good community relations

·       Joint message from our Jewish and Muslim Chaplains

The Students’ Union have been contacted for comment.

Credit: Alexandra Baynes @ The Mancunion
Alexandra Baynes

Alexandra Baynes

Head Editor of Opinion Section. Radio Host on Fuse FM. Twitter: @lexiebayness

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