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Students Protest the (Western) World Over

Holly Cromwell

Saturday, 25 May 2024

Student protests in the US in support of Palestine have grabbed international media attention, both from traditional new outlets and through the slow seep of videos in the TikTok ecosystem. The role of student journalists and social media in local and global politics has never been quite so clear. Holly explores this and examines the ongoing events.

Student protests in the US have gained international attention. Whether it be through traditional news or the slow seep of videos within the TikTok ecosystem, I’m sure almost everyone is aware of the ongoing situation. The role of student journalists and social media in local and global politics has never been quite so clear. What may not have been so clear, however, is that the students in Universities of Atlanta, Yale, Havard, New York, North Carolina, Columbia and Mississippi, as well as so many others, were not alone for very long – as students from all over the world have come together to protest in support of Palestine against the Israel-Hamas war.


Student protests have sprung up across the globe: the famous Science Po and La Sorbonne in Paris, as well as Lyon, in France; Leipzig in Germany; Lausanne, Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland; and Trinity College in Dublin. And, since the 11th of May, our very own Nottingham Students for Palestine have set up camp outside of the Advanced Manufacturing Building on Jubilee campus, asking, like many other protesters, for their university to cease affiliations with Israel. Not all student protests take the form of encampments like the ones we have seen in the UK and US: some are occupations, sit-ins, marches, or simple demonstrations. Despite this variety, the protests all seem to be on the same intensity across the continent.


Police have been involved across Europe, with 86 people arrested at La Sorbonne, Paris, and 169 in Amsterdam, where students created barricades out of university furniture around their encampments to push back against police. Students were arrested at many of these protests, but some countries have had more measured reactions than others. Where in the US, the police were seen using teargas and pepper balls on unarmed students (making the University of Arizona now infamous on social media), those in Amsterdam used batons to charge students and smash their tents. As a breath of fresh air, however, in Belgium, the prime minister Alexander de Croo, has said that if he were their age, he would have joined them. In the UK, Rishi Sunak has called vice-chancellors of British universities to an emergency meeting at Downing Street, to discuss these university encampments and alleged “rising anti-semitism” on campuses. His message to those protesting was: “The right to free speech does not include the right to harass people or incite violence.” Some of those same vice-chancellors have since accused him of inflaming the situation, although one took the opposite stance. Hundreds of staff members from Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh have signed open letters claiming solidarity with these students, echoing the chains of faculty members protecting student encampments at New York University.


Something not highlighted enough in articles on the subject is that although these protests erupted through April and May, they are set to continue towards the end of June in some places. Whilst student activists protest, student journalists cover the events at the risk of their own safety, particularly in those campuses facing institutional violence. Many of those campuses that have seen these encampments have also experienced certain levels of police violence used to disperse them, though most not on the level of Arizona.


Most countries have their own term calendar, but, given the relative ubiquity of the summer holidays, this is a universally anxiety-inducing time for students. With exam seasons and graduation periods looming, the protests have already caused significant impacts. Whilst there’s a long history of student protests, (protests at Oxford and Paris date back to 1209 and 1229 respectively, from before English even resembled English), any society committee knows that it is difficult to motivate students to do anything at this time of year. The fact that these protests are not only global, but are continuing despite the efforts of the institutions and the police, as well as the slow grind of grades and expectations, is pretty remarkable.


An incomplete list of campus protests for Palestine in Europe alone:

Austria: Vienna

Belgium: Gand, Brussels, Liège, Anvers (the free university of Brussels and the Catholic university of Leuven)

Denmark: Copenhagen

Finland: Helsinki

Germany: Berlin, La Freie Universität de Berlin, (the other large campus of the German Capital) Dresden, Leipzig and Brêmen.

Greece: Athens

Ireland: Trinity College Dublin

Italy: La Sapienza, Milan, Naples, Turin, Bologne, Padoue

Netherlands: Amsterdam, Maastricht, Nimègue, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Groningue, Leiden

Norway: Bergen

Portugal: Lisbon

Spain: Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, Pampelune, Bilbao, Séville.

Sweden: Lund, Stockholm

Switzerland: Geneva, Bâle, Berne, Fribourg, Zurich

UK: Newcastle, Leeds, Lancaster, Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, Goldsmith, Kings College London, Nottingham, Bristol, Warwick, York, London School of Economics, Queen Mary School of London.

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Holly Cromwell

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