Over forty students started the occupation in solidarity with Palestine last Thursday afternoon demanding that the LSE condemns Israeli aggression, divests from BAE, a firm that arms Israel, and provides material support for Palestinians. The students are demanding that the LSE waivers application fees and provides more scholarships for Palestinian students, sends surplus computers and books to Palestine and facilitates a cross-campus collection for Medical Aid for Palestine.
LSE students have occupied the Old Theatre
The occupation has attracted several high profile speakers including Tony Benn, George Galloway, Lindsey German and Alex Callinicos to rallies and public lectures inside the occupied theatre. The line-up of speakers for Tuesday includes Baroness Jenny Tonge, Haim Bresheeth, Moshe Machover and Paul Gilroy.
Tony Benn endorsed the occupation, "May I congratulate you all for having organised this occupation. I have seen the statement of intent that you have made and I agree with it one hundred percent." He said, "Don't think that you're an isolated little group at the LSE. In my judgement I believe there is mass support for what you are doing from all over the world."
Over 350 students attended the lecture with Tony Benn. Since its start, the core group of the occupation has doubled to about 80 students, with dozens more coming in daily to express their support.
One of the students, Mira Hammad, addressed 10.000 people at Saturday's Trafalgar Square rally. "Now, this is the age of human rights, this is the age when we stand up for the people who have no voice, we are giving a voice to the silenced," she said, adding, "We urge all students: Forget NUS, forget the government. Stand up yourselves, and make a statement: Start the movement now"
George Galloway expressed his support for the occupation outside the occupied theatre today, "I want to thank you on the action that you have taken, rescuing the honour of the London School of Economics. It has been dishonoured by the silence of Howard Davies in the face of the war crime involved in the deliberate destruction and bombardment of the Islamic University in Gaza.", he said.
The group has received messages of support from LSE Staff against the war, a large number of academics and students from other universities and members of the public. Over 350 LSE students have signed a petition in support of the occupation.
Occupations have also been taking place at SOAS and Essex Universities and other student groups plan to start occupations in the coming days.
The group today expressed optimism that the School is close to meeting their demands. A spokesperson said, "The School appears to have agreed in principle to our reasonable demands regarding providing support for Palestinians. We look forward to meeting with them to discuss the details of the support the LSE community can provide and our request that they issue a statement and divest from BAE. Unfortunately, they are currently arguing that they will not speak with us further until the occupation has ended. This is unsatisfactory to us as in the past they have used this tactic to avoid making firm commitments. We hope to meet with them shortly."
The spokesperson added, "LSE is an institution founded on the Fabian values that were the precursor of the human rights agenda of modern politics. LSE must restate those values and condemn state criminality. It is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of humanity. For an academic institution to profit from firms that arm Israel is unacceptable."
NOTES TO EDITORS
1) Please view our blog for updates and past news releases. http://lseoccupation.blogspot.com/
2) The identity of other universities who will start occupations is being kept secret. Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
3) For more information on the SOAS occupation: http://soassolidarity4gaza.blogspot.com/
4) For more information on the Essex occupation: http://www.visitpalestine.asia/page.cfm/id/98207
5) For the motion on Gaza passed by the Students' Union: http://lseoccupation.blogspot.com/2009/01/student-union-passes-motion-condemning.html
6) The video of Mira's speech can be found here: http://lseoccupation.blogspot.com/2009/01/lse-students-to-speak-at-trafalgar.html
7) The video of Tony Benn's speech can be found here: http://lseoccupation.blogspot.com/2009/01/videos-now-uploaded-tony-benn-lindsey.html
8) The video of George Galloway's speech can be found here: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=22IMP8EbgFg&feature=channel_page