On 24 November, KCL students joined other London universities in a walkout in support of Palestine, the second in as many weeks.
The protest began outside the Strand Building, before joining students from the London School of Economics (LSE). The protestors then headed to a rally at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where they were joined by students from University College London (UCL). The protest ended outside the offices of Keir Starmer.
Organisers said that the purpose of the protest was to call on “our institutions to demand an immediate ceasefire now and to end support for Israel’s occupation and genocide of the Palestinian people.”
The protestors were also responding to what organisers described as “political repression and silencing tactics”, referring to the suspension of several members of the SOAS Palestine Society following a protest on 9 October.
A spokesman from SOAS said in a statement that the suspensions were for violating health and safety protocol, as well as because “fire alarms were set off and part of the estate was vandalised, halting lectures for the day. The small number of suspensions relate to these incidents.”
However, SOAS Palestine Society denied claims that they had set off fire alarms and described the suspensions as a “targeted act of political oppression”.
KCL Students for Justice for Palestine listed four demands for the protest, the same as the previous week:
Despite organisers stating that they were not expecting any police presence at the protest, there was a substantial contingent of officers policing the event. Roar spoke to one police officer who said that there were more than 20 police assigned to the protest, and that more were on standby.
Chants from protestors included: “ceasefire now”, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Keir Starmer you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide”.
The Labour Party leader has drawn fire after appearing initially to suggest that Israel had the right to withhold water and electricity from Gaza. Though he later stated that his words had been misunderstood, he faced a significant rebellion over his opposition to a Scottish National Party motion in the House of Commons calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Roar spoke to a number of protestors. One said: “I’m here today to stand in solidarity with Palestinians facing genocidal attacks from the Israeli state right now, and also to demand an end to the repression of students at universities here in London who have organised to show their solidarity and they have been met with suspensions […] Student Unions need to take a stand on this sort of thing, they have the right to and they have the power to take a stand on these things”.
Another pointed to KCL’s partnership with Technion Institute of Technology, an institution that has been involved in development of “defence technology” for the Israeli Defense Forces: “if King’s have [sic] nothing to hide then they should open up their books and explain their connections with Israel and ultimately cut ties with them as well.”
The most recent information Roar was able to find on this partnership is from 2021, when the university stated that the partnership was for research around ageing. It is unclear if the partnership still exists.
Later in the day, a memorial was held for King’s alumnus Dr Maisara Alrayyes at Guy’s Campus. Dr Alrayyes was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, along with several members of his family. He gained a masters in Women and Children’s Health in 2020 on a prestigious Chevening scholarship.
A memorial will also take place on Wednesday, 29 November at Strand Campus, with the service led by the Dean’s office and the Chaplaincy.