University of Sheffield students disrupted the opening of the university’s newest building, The Wave, claiming the university is complicit in aiding in the bloodshed of Palestinians in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Gathering outside the building, assembling at both the front and back exits, the group of students had the goal of expressing public solidarity with the people of Palestine and to communicate demands to the university. Some were waving the Palestine flag, others holding up large placards. Security at the university prevented people from entering or leaving.
University support for arms manufacturers
A student at the university, Leah Massingham, 19, said:
“I thought it was a very passionate protest and the cause is obviously something we need to protest for however if I’m being honest I was slightly nerve wracking because I didn’t know what to expect or know whether it was going to continue to be peaceful.”
They rallied against the university’s financial partnerships with various companies known to be arms manufacturers, including BAE Systems, Boeing and GKN. The group also claims a Freedom of Information request revealed that the university has received £72m in the last ten years from these partnerships.
Testimonial from the protest
First year undergraduate student Moleed Mire, 19, who was present at the time, described he had first realised there was a protest when he heard a “muffling noise” coming from outside. He had difficulty in initially trying to leave the building, being partially trapped until a protester helped him exit by holding open one of the doors.
“It was… it was quite a sight. Because there was like the protest, there were people all over the stairs, and there were like people just filming us as well, including the security guards who have like phones, who were filming on phones. I don’t know how that made me feel because me and my friends we didn’t have like face masks to disguise our identities like some of the other people did.”
Eventually some of the protesters managed to get into the building, and he remembered them shouting chants such as “Free Palestine” and “From the river to the sea”. Their entry even prompted a cake in the shape of the The Wave building, a part of the opening celebrations, to be escorted away.
The group of students have set out a number of demands for the university, including to halt their financial partnerships with arms manufacturers, support the call for an end to the occupation of Palestine, and to commit to environmental sustainability and climate justice for the most affected global populations.
University of Sheffield’s response
In response to questions, a spokesman from the University of Sheffield said this:
“We recognise the strength of feeling about the situation in Israel and Gaza and we support the right of students to express their views peacefully and within the law.
“We also want to remind our students of the behavioural expectations around protests and that racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia or support for proscribed organisations is against the law in the UK.
“We understand that the issues surrounding the conflict in Israel/Gaza can affect many different groups of people – including our students, staff and alumni. We encourage students with concerns to seek support from university support services.”
The University also provided a link to information on the support available, which students have also been signposted to via the student hub.