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BREAKING: KCL Students Host Walkout for Ceasefire in Gaza

Student protesting in front of Strand campus. 09/11/2023. Photo by Emma Carmichael, Photography Lead.

KCL students have today taken part in a National Student Walkout for Ceasefire in Gaza.

Walkout leaflets requested that students leave their classrooms and meet outside Strand Campus at 12.30pm by St Mary le Strand Church.

This call comes just over a month after Israel began bombing Gaza, a campaign that started on the day of Hamas’ attack on Israel. The current death toll in Gaza, the majority of which is from the bombing campaign, is reported by the Hamas-run Health Ministry as exceeding 10,000, a figure which a UNICEF spokesperson has recently declared is likely reliable and accurate. Israel reported 1,300 deaths in Hamas’ attack on 7 October.

The walkout had the following demands:

Upon request for comment, KCL student organisers suggested that the walkout is supported by the UCU, as a part of a wider call to action by the Palestine Youth Movement on 9 November. When approached for comment, KCL UCU said: “while our Branch supports demands for an immediate ceasefire, UCU cannot legally call for a walkout but we informed our members that a student walkout was taking place. We defend students right to protest and made sure that the protest was supported appropriately and spoke at it. Many King’s College London UCU members came along on their lunch breaks to show their support for the student-organised walk-out, calling for an immediate ceasefire, an end to Israel’s occupation and to King’s complicity in Israeli apartheid and violence against Palestinians.”

Strand campus, 11/09/2023. Courtesy of Photography Lead Emma Carmichael.

They also said that the most important reason behind the walkout was to stop King’s partnership with Technion Institute of Technology, a relationship that Roar can most recently find reference to from King’s in 2021, when it previously covered the issue. In that statement, the university states that the partnership is about ageing research – it is unclear if this relationship continues to exist. Technion is an Israeli university that has been involved in the development of ‘defence technology’ for the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). They also have several partnerships with Israeli companies like Elbit, an organisation with defence contracts with the IDF.

Roar has approached King’s for comment, and is awaiting their response. This article will be updated once we receive a response.

Roar attended the walkout to speak to students about why they were motivated to attend the event. At 12:30, students began to gather outside the front of the Strand campus, some with signs in hand or flags around their shoulders. Shortly after, students leading the demonstration began to rally the crowd, with chants including, “What do we want? Ceasefire! When do we want it? Now!”. Many students requested to remain anonymous or denied to speak, out of fear of visa implications, after potential Home Office plans threaten that international students could face having their visas rescinded for language that is “anti-Semitic” or “praises Hamas”.

One protestor told Roar, “as a visibly Muslim woman, and a first generation immigrant, I have chosen to rescind my name from my statement in order to avoid being implicated with any claims to anti-semitism, which I reject, and stand firmly in my stance alongside my Jewish anti-Zionist brothers and sisters. … I am concerned that my request for the UK Government to support the protection of human rights will have a negative impact on [my family’s] right to reside in the UK.” Protestors’ statements have been kept anonymous to protect international students who want their opinions shared alongside those of home students.

Strand campus. 09/11/2023. Photo by Emma Carmichael.

One protestor told Roar, “I am here to raise awareness for the over 10,000 Palestinian lives lost; I think King’s has a special responsibility to its Palestinian students [to acknowledge] its complicity through its investments in things that support the Israeli apartheid going on right now. I am also here for the loss of Dr Maisara Alrayyes… I demand that King’s recognises that this is much closer to us than we might think. I also recognise that this is a very politicised event and… I think its imperative especially as Armistice Day is coming up to demand a ceasefire. I think that King’s students should start talking about it.”

The protests were densely populated and consisted of a diverse student base. Another protestor said to Roar, “I came here to support my Arab friends, and support justice.” Sentiment amongst protestors reflected that student solidarity was at the heart of this movement. “I think mostly the societies are doing a lot – it’s more student-led than university based. It’s a good community to be a part of.”

Photo by Emma Carmichael.

Many remarked on their disappointment, claiming that the university had not done enough: “I feel like the societies are doing the most, and I think that the higher-ups of the university aren’t doing what they should be doing in this situation. I think there could be more done [by the university] in regards to speaking out about this.”

“It’s really important to show solidarity… we need a ceasefire and we need it as soon as physically possible”, one protestor told Roar. “A lot of this stuff happens in student communities, they really are an incredibly vibrant space. It’s where we can do our activism and I would encourage anyone to get involved. It’s a real shame that it doesn’t come from the top down, but hopefully by doing more of this… it will challenge the institutions to think a bit deeper about what they do and why they don’t divest, and I hope we can cause meaningful change by doing this.”

To read more of Roar’s coverage of Israel and Palestine, click here.

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