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Court rules in favour of LSE against pro-Palestine encampment, allowing it to dismantle protest

June 16, 2024 at 9:56 am

An encampment set up by students from the London School of Economics (LSE) Student Union Palestine Society inside the LSE’s Marshall Building in London, United Kingdom on 14 May 2024 [Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images]

A court has ruled that the London School of Economics (LSE) can dismantle the pro-Palestinian encampment on its campus, in a loss for a group of students in the first stage of the legal battle.

Following a hearing held at the Central London County Court this week, District Judge Kevin Moses issued an interim possession order, which requires those attending and enforcing the encampment to leave the premises within 24 hours once that order is served.

The judge stated that the group of protestors “are aware of the difficulties they are causing the claimants. They are aware of the difficulties they are causing to other users of the premises”. While he acknowledged that the students maintain the right to protest, he emphasised that that right does not “give parties an unfettered right to occupy other parties’ premises with a view to protesting, particularly when they are required to leave”.

The group of protestors initially set up the encampment within the LSE’s Marshall Building campus on 14 May, following the publishing of a report by the Student’ Union’s Palestine Society – titled ‘Assets in Apartheid’ – which revealed the LSE’s apparent investments of £89 million into 137 companies involved in Israel’s ongoing offensive on Gaza, as well as in the fossil fuels and arms industry and the production of nuclear weapons.

The court order demanding that the students disband and dismantle their encampment is a result of the university’s legal action against the group earlier this month, making the institution one of those throughout the UK which have sought such possession orders against the encampments on their campuses.

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According to Riccardo Calzavara, the LSE’s representative who addressed the court through written submissions, the group “may have had permission to enter the building, as they appear to be students, but they did not have permission to enter the building in order to encamp on part of it, nor have they ever had permission to remain there”.

He claimed that the encampment posed an “intolerable fire risk” and had caused “considerable cost, and disruption, to the claimant and other users of the Marshall Building”. Calzavara insisted that the university did not seek to evict the students because of their protest, but “because they have taken over a building of ours unlawfully”.

In response, Daniel Grutters, the representative of three of the students, stressed that in regards to the health and safety risks, “the defendants are willing to comply with any and all health and safety adjustments and recommendations made”.

The encampment, he said, “is an attempt by all of the defendants to educate the LSE about its complicity in what it calls crimes against humanity, genocide and apartheid.” The LSE’s call attempt to remove the students and their encampment and to simple allow them to protest without it “is not a decision that is maintainable”, he insisted.

According to reports, this week’s hearing was only the first round in the ongoing legal battle, with a further hearing in the case set to take place at a later date.