UCL sees arrests over anti-genocide peace banner

  • Post last modified:May 7, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Cops arrested four campaigners at UCL student protests on suspicion of terrorism-related offenses – for the heinous crime of carrying a painting depicting a peace dove flying out of occupied Gaza. Apparently, clear blue sky is now antisemitic. Who knew?

Arrested at UCL because the PeAcE dOvE iS tErRoRiSm

Four activists were arrested on Saturday 4 May outside the student encampment at University College London (UCL), protesting for an end to the violence in occupied Palestine. As Counterfire reported:

On Thursday 2 May the rapidly-spreading student encampment protests for Palestine arrived in London. Students at UCL took to the main quad of their campus and set up tents, inspired by the US encampments.

The university immediately fortified all entrances of the campus with extra security to stop non-students being able to join in with the protest or bring supplies to the students. Despite this block by the university, students from other London universities, particularly Kings College London have managed to join the encampment.

On Friday the students organised several events including a talk by Palestinian doctor Ghassan Abu-Sittah and two rallies where protesters came down to the university to show their support. Still blocked by university security, people rallied on the other side of the main gate, following the chants led by the students inside.

By 4 May, the encampment was well established – however, police soon got involved.

Cops said they arrested four people under section 13 of the Terrorism Act. However, their only crime was carrying an artwork depicting a universally recognised symbol of peace:

Apparently, this was the explanation cops gave for the arrests:

US student demos spreading to the UK

The recent period has already seen violent crackdowns around the student protests in the US. As the Canary previously reported, these protests are now spreading to UK universities. Encampments have been set up in both Manchester and Sheffield – as well as Edinburgh, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle, Goldsmiths in London, and Warwick.

For example, in Sheffield students are protesting over their university’s complicity in Israel genocide. The university’s involvement in F-35 production supplying Israel is part of a pattern of close ties with the arms industry. In 2022, a freedom of information request (FOI) revealed that Sheffield took at least £72m in investment from the arms trade over the preceding decade.

This level of investment is exceptionally high in the context of British higher education. Last year openDemocracy reported that Sheffield University received more defence funding than any other institution, taking over £42m, while Oxford and Cambridge took £17m and £10m respectively.

Anti-genocide protests are wOrSe ThAn GeNoCiDe

At UCL, it’s clear that university bosses and cops are taking a similar authoritarian and ludicrous approach to that seen in the US. That is, people holding anti-genocide protests are worse than an actual genocide itself.

Campaign group Camden Friends of Palestine said of the UCL arrests:

We cannot let symbols of peace and freedom be misrepresented as symbols of terrorism when the real terror is the genocide that is taking place.

It is clear that these arrests are politically motivated and intended to intimidate supporters of Palestinian liberation.

By Sunday 5 May cops had released the four protesters:

However, as Andrew Feinstein pointed out – we live in scary times:

Featured image via Dr James O’Leary and additional image via Camden Friends of Palestine

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