We, the collected students of the St Andrews Solidarity with Palestine Campaign, are writing to express our outrage at the treatment of student occupiers by New York University and the violent handling of protesters by the NYPD.
Like thousands of students across Britain, we were appalled by the illegal bombing and land invasion of Gaza and the indiscriminate killing of civilians that resulted. At 25 British universities, students have occupied buildings in order to convince their Unis to both provide practical support for the people of Gaza in the face of the decimation of an entire educational infrastructure, and to cut ties with organisations linked to the Israeli military. Having occupied Lower & Upper College Halls here at St Andrews for nearly 3 days, we have so far been ‘politely’ asked on more than one occasion to leave the building; both times we have refused. We have been frustrated by some aspects of the relaying of our demands, but our frustration must be nothing compared to what the members of Take Back NYU! must be feeling after these events.
We are appalled by the use of night-sticks, pepper spray and tasers on the part of the police when dealing with demonstrators. What we have read suggests that the occupation has been largely peaceful and that the actions of the police were entirely unjustified. We are equally dismayed by the response of New York University to the protest. The students were exercising their democratic right to non-violent action, yet were dismissed by New York University as “dishonour[ing] NYU’s commitment to free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate, and legitimate forms of protest”. We believe it is disingenuous of Senior VP Lynne Brown to describe the protest as having ended peacefully, despite student testimonies to the contrary.
Given the risks that the protesters faced in carrying out this occupation, we would like to express our admiration for their perseverance. We believe that their case deserves to be heard, and will inform other British students involved in occupations. We will also be relaying our concerns to the NYU administration.
We also want to express our outrage at the responses of various universities to student actions, specifically:
Nottingham, where the university closed the occupied building, cut the power supply and then forcibly evicted students.
Sheffield Hallam, where the protest ended peacefully after the police were called to evict them. Several of them were later suspended.
Cambridge, where the students were threatened with suspension and eventually starved out.
St Andrews Solidarity with Palestine Campaign