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University of Birmingham seeks legal action to remove pro-Palestine encampments

June 12, 2024 at 6:57 pm

University of Birmingham pro-Palestinian encampments on campus grounds on 22 May 2024 [@DrCAchilleos/X]

The University of Birmingham is seeking a court order to clear the pro-Palestinian encampments on its campus grounds, in the latest legal action taken by a British university against the form of protest.

In a statement yesterday by the university’s Vice Chancellor and Principal, Adam Tickell, he announced that after “careful and very challenging reflection on this situation, it is with a heavy heart that … we made the decision to go to Court to request a Possession Order to end the disruption being caused to University land and activity being caused by the camps.”

Claiming that it was “not a decision that has been taken lightly” and that he respects the right to peacefully protest in line with the law and university regulations, Tickell stressed that the “rights to protest and to freedom of speech do not include setting up a camp and occupying University land, to the detriment of the rest of the University community. Nor does it include recent actions that we have seen on campus which have created a hostile environment for some of our student and staff community.”

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The principal stated that, since the beginning of the encampments in early May, “my senior team have offered to engage with those involved, to listen to their concerns and find a route to ending the camps”, but that the protestors’ representatives “refused offers to meet with senior university representatives … unless specific demands were agreed to in advance”.

If the court grants the Possession Order, it would enforce the University administration’s ownership of the campus grounds and could effectively enable it to crack down on the encampments by forcefully disbanding them. It comes weeks after the University threatened students with legal action, and would make it the latest educational institution in the UK, as well as the US, to go to such lengths. It also follows on from Oxford University’s order for police to arrest pro-Palestinian students on their own campus last month.

“This action is not about taking a political position as an institution,” Tickell said. “I am unequivocal in recognising that this conflict continues to cause unimaginable suffering and continue to hope for an immediate ceasefire, the release of the remaining hostages, the delivery of vital aid and a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”

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