On May 28, 2021, students mobilised on a national level to protest UK universities’ complicit funding of the Israeli apartheid. This allegedly involved approximately 20 different universities across the country, including KCL, LSE and SOAS.
KCL’s Students for Justice for Palestine society (KCL SJP) partnered with Apartheid Off Campus to deliver the “Palestine Day of Action”. According to data collected from freedom of information requests, King’s College London has allegedly invested a total of £3,890,019 in Israeli-complicit companies. One of the chants for the day of action addressed this directly: “UK Universities fund Israeli atrocities!” Roar is currently conducting an investigation into the ongoing accuracy of the above claim.
One of the KCL SJP organisers of the event outlined the aims of the day: “Organising this protest was important. It was a way to kick-start on-campus action after a year of being online. It was a way to send a strong message to King’s: students don’t want their tuition fees to fund companies actively harming Palestinians and that King’s needs to divest. Also, this protest, being a part of the Apartheid Off Campus student national day of action further showed that we’re a part of a UK-wide student-led movement that is united and determined to get apartheid off campus.”
A representative from Apartheid off Campus also spoke to Roar: “We organised various actions including educational BDS workshops, marches, protests, poetry circles, and many more. These spaces where we come together as students on our campuses are a testament to the mass opposition to UK universities’ role in aiding and funding Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians. We will not rest until our universities divest from complicit companies and end all partnerships with Israeli institutions. Palestinian suffering has been going on long enough. It is time to hold Israel accountable. It starts with us, the students. We need to be showing our solidarity with Palestinians in material ways by demanding that our universities commit to BDS, otherwise they will continue to have blood on their hands.”
Former president of the KCL Action Palestine Society (now re-named KCL SJP), Mohammed Ali, reflected on King’s alleged complicity: “Despite their attempt to drive moral initiatives the university fails to understand that to be complicit in the murder of one human is to be complicit in the murder of all of humanity. No amount of hospitals or schools built will bring back the lives taken. King’s College London is still standing on the wrong side of history, deciding to financially back the Israeli apartheid state, despite the overwhelming number of students and staff that have moral objections to this use of their money.”
Members of the Socialist party also attended the protest. James Ivens, secretary of the East London branch, commented that: “Wherever workers and young people are fighting back, the Socialist Party will be there too. We call for a socialist intifada to liberate Palestine. The biggest threat to the Israeli regime is working-class action to win jobs and homes and make the rich pay. Here in Britain, we can assist by bringing down our own government. Workers and young people need a new mass party to represent our interests, not big businesses – we need it here, and in Palestine and Israel.”
An anonymous King’s fresher, present on the day, explained their reasoning for attending the protest: “I attended because I used to be proud to say I go to King’s College London, but recently I have felt extremely ashamed to say so due to their extensive complicity with Israel’s depraved acts. I hope King’s divests in Israel to create a safer, more accepting international and local environment, where King’s initial values of harmony and inclusion are fully implemented.”
Throughout the day, students could be heard reciting: “Free, Free, Free Palestine!” and “De-De-De-Colonise!”, as well as longer chants such as: “Back up, Back up, We want Freedom, Freedom. All these racist occupiers, we don’t need em, need em!” Many nearby drivers also showed their support and solidarity for the student led movement by honking their car horns as the protest passed by.
The demonstration in total lasted approximately three hours and involved students walking from Strand, across Waterloo bridge and finally ending the day at Guys’ Campus. Police officers walked on either side of the protestors the entire time, to protect students and monitor social distancing regulations. Legal representatives were also present at the event.
The University and the KCLSU have both released recent statements regarding the Israel-Palestine situation. The next student-led protest for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is set to be held on 9 July at Malet Street, from 4 pm.