Exeter, Devon UK • May 27, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home News Palestine Campout Protests Come to Exeter

Palestine Campout Protests Come to Exeter

Features Editor Callum Martin reports on the pro-Palestinian protest camp that recently appeared on campus, and interviews a student protestor.
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The protest encampment on the green opposite Queens

At 4am yesterday morning, student protestors set up an encampment opposite the Queens Building, calling for the University to sever all ties with Israel due to its bloody military actions in Gaza and the West Bank.

The style of the Exeter protest is partly inspired by similar demonstrations that recently spread from US to UK Universities. It currently comprises at least a dozen tents, banners, and a group of students chanting and showing their support for Palestine.

I interviewed the protestor’s spokesperson, Chris Kunzler, to understand what exactly the students were calling for. Chris, 23, is currently studying a MA in Middle Eastern Studies, and is active online as a pro-Palestinian content creator, with more than 230,000 followers on TikTok.

Chris said, “the encampment is in favour of the University divesting and cutting ties with all military, defence and security companies and partnerships directly and indirectly involved in and benefitting from the occupation, oppression and genocide of the Palestinian people.” He and the protestors are also calling for a severing of the universities’ research partnership with Tel Aviv, and the creation of a scholarship in each department for students from Gaza.

The demographic of the protest was mostly students, but some members of the public had come down to show their support.

A protestor adorns their tent with a banner

This afternoon, the University sent out an email to all students, acknowledging the campout, and accepting the right to protest, but emphasising that no instances of discrimination, harassment, antisemitism or Islamophobia on campus would be tolerated. In a previous statement on the conflict, the University said, “we remain deeply concerned and distressed by the escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza. Our thoughts are with all those who are suffering as a result.”

While Chris condemns University policy towards Israel, he was not as critical about the University response to their protest. He says that, so far, they have been “pretty hands off…the approach has been pretty much, don’t damage any property, we’ll ensure your safety, be respectful, make sure you respect the environment.”

Recently, the Union of Jewish Students issued a statement that the protest camps were creating a “hostile and toxic” atmosphere for Jewish students on campus. I put this to Chris, who responded, “While I understand that people may be made to feel uncomfortable by chance, as a white person who experienced the George Floyd protests, I was uncomfortable in 2020, but then I learned, and grew up, and realised, that sometimes, its just better to join a movement that’s actually progressive rather than worrying about myself.”

Protest spokesperson Chris Kunzler

He went on to say, “no one here is an anti-Semite, no one here hates Jewish people. People feel ire towards the state of Israel and Zionism because of the consequences that its had for Palestinians…if some people feel uncomfortable, I’m sorry, but I’m never going to be able to change their minds.”

Chris’ parting message for students was this – “Wake up. This University is incredibly complicit, not only in the genocide of Palestinian people, but also extreme violence all over the world…the partnership with a company called Qinetiq helps to make drones that are used in the occupied West Bank against Palestinians. What people need to realise is that, in spite of the fact that this University might have divested directly from investing in weapons companies, the fact remains that they still do it tacitly through these research partnerships, and if anyone wants to learn more, there’s great resources available online.”

The campout is still in its early days, and Exepose will keep you updated as the situation develops.

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