Pro-Palestinian protesters take over London School of Economics building

Protest echoes similar encampments at universities across the US and Europe

Members of the student union's Palestine Society occupy the Marshall Building at the London School of Economics. Getty Images
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Students at the London School of Economics have occupied a building on campus to protest against the university’s ties to Israel.

Dozens of students took over the Marshall Building, echoing similar encampments inside universities across the US and parts of Europe, while going further than many institutions in the UK, which have until now limited camps protesting against Israel’s operation in Gaza to the grounds of institutions.

Student demonstrations have gathered pace across Europe in recent weeks, with protesters demanding an end to the Gaza bloodshed and urging that ties be cut with Israel.

Footage shared on X shows students at the school clearing chairs and setting up tents, waving Palestinian flags and chanting.

The move came after the student union's Palestine Society invited protesters to attend a press conference and rally on Tuesday to launch a report on the university’s financial ties to companies that support Israel.

The 116-page report alleged that LSE has investments worth more than £48.5 million in 80 companies “involved in crimes against the Palestinian people”.

It further claimed that the university had invested more than £5.3 million in 11 companies that are “profiting from the genocide in Gaza”, including Toyota, General Motors, BAE Systems, Caterpillar and RTX.

Others include investments in 21 companies that work with and/or supply the Israeli military and/or police, including Toyota, Sony, General Motors, BAE Systems and Motorola.

“As governments across the world begin to sever their ties with Israel and debate an arms embargo, and as students are protesting to demand divestment from companies complicit in genocide, LSE exposes itself to possible legal consequences in the future for its financing and enabling of genocide,” says the report.

“It is in LSE’s interest to confront this issue now and establish a sustainable and morally sound investment strategy.”

A university spokesman told The National: “On 14 May 2024, following a rally on the LSE campus, some protesters entered and occupied part of the ground floor of the LSE Marshall Building, highlighting a range of demands relating to investments.

“We will carefully consider the report submitted by the protest group and respond in due course. We will also continue to engage in a peaceful dialogue.

“Our priority continues to be the well-being of the LSE community. Exams, which take place in other areas of campus, are not currently affected by the protest.”

The LSE rally came as Swiss police moved in early on Wednesday to remove dozens of pro-Palestinian student protesters at Bern University.

Swiss police acted following a request by the Bern university's management, which described the student occupation as “unacceptable”.

The last of about 30 protesters left Bern University early on Wednesday.

They chanted pro-Palestinian slogans outside the building before leaving the area.

Dozens of demonstrators had been occupying university premises, including the restaurant, since Sunday night.

They demanded an “academic boycott of Israel institutions” and ignored a university ultimatum to leave the premises.

University rector Christian Leumann said on Wednesday he was open to talks but added that “an occupation with politically motivated demands does not create an environment for constructive dialogue”.

Pro-Palestine protests at European universities – in pictures

On Tuesday, police in Geneva removed about 50 pro-Palestinian protesters who had been occupying a Geneva University building for about a week.

About 20 officers entered the UniMail building in the early hours.

“Most of the students were sleeping. After being gathered they were led to the underground parking garage,” Julie Zaugg, a journalist with LemanbleuTV channel, said on X.

There have been similar protests at other Swiss universities and polytechnic schools including Lausanne, Basel and Zurich.

Last week, students at Ireland's Trinity College Dublin ended a five-day protest after the university agreed to divest from Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories.

The university said that “an agreement was reached” after “successful talks between the university's senior management and the protesters”.

Laszlo Molnarfi, president of the institution's student union, said Trinity’s decision was a “testament to grass roots student-staff power”, adding that the camp would be dismantled.

Updated: May 15, 2024, 9:19 AM