Edinburgh University occupation comes to an end

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by Stevie Kearney, Head of News

The 5 day long occupation of Edinburgh University’s George Square lecture theatre has come to an end, with protesters gaining several concessions from the university.

The ‘sit in for Gaza’ protest started last Wednesday as a group of around 60 students took up residence in the lecture theatre demanding that the university adhere to a list of demands centred on the current Israel/Palestine conflict.  A statement from the group claims to have secured several concessions, including the establishment of 5 scholarship places each year for students from Gaza, the setting up of a series of debates around the university and the right to take their case to the university court regarding alleged unethical investments.

[caption id=”attachment_1814” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”The George Square lecture theatre was occupied for 5 days”][/caption]

As the protest group left the lecture hall on Monday morning, they stressed that the campaign is ongoing, “We feel that this is only the beginning of the movement to end the university’s role in the occupation and oppression of Palestine by the Israeli government and military. There remain serious issues to which the university’s response was completely inadequate, including the active role of arms and defence companies in university research and on-campus recruitment”.

Edinburgh University has issued a brief statement, stating, “We welcome the satisfactory conclusion of this sit in following dialogue with the student group concerned so that disruption to our students has been minimised”.

Amongst the issues were alleged links to unethical investments in Israeli companies, such as the university’s main bottled water supplier Eden Water.  A concentrated campaign by campaign groups across the UK against Eden Water has led to the loss of many contracts.  Edinburgh University has agreed to cease all trade with the company by the start of the 2009/10 academic session.

[caption id=”attachment_1815” align=”alignleft” width=”150” caption=”The sit in protest lasted 5 days”][/caption]

Over the weekend EUSA, Edinburgh University’s student body, called on the protesters to bring the occupation to a close so as to minimise disruption to the university as a whole.  EUSA backing was seen by many as vital in giving the protest legitimacy, and the call from EUSA added to the pressure to bring the protest to a halt.

It is not clear whether any disciplinary action will be taken by the university against those involved in the protest.

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