Students to end week-long pro-Palestine stand-off after University of Melbourne relents to protest demand

Georgina Noack
The Nightly
After a week-long stand-off that saw hundreds of classes disrupted and threats of police intervention, the University of Melbourne has struck a deal with protesters.
After a week-long stand-off that saw hundreds of classes disrupted and threats of police intervention, the University of Melbourne has struck a deal with protesters. Credit: James Ross/AAP

Student protesters at the University of Melbourne will end their sit-in at the Arts West Building after the university relented to one of their “important” demands.

UniMelb 4 Palestine, the organisers of the occupation, announced they would dismantle it and another encampment on campus after the academic institution agreed to disclose its research partnerships with weapons manufacturers.

Organises called the agreement a “major win”, albeit a “partial achievement”, and said they would pack up camp on Thursday morning once the university made its disclosure.

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“We recognise the University’s decision is the result of eight months of pressure to disclose and divest its unethical ties to weapons manufacturers,” the statement read.

“This is a first step. Divestment from those that profiteer from genocide remains our number on demand and we will not rest until full divestment is achieved.”

UM4P said they would “continue to build and fight” until the university disclosed and divest its weapons ties.

We stand by our claim that the University remains complicit in the genocide in Gaza and continues to fail in its obligations to humanity.

UniMelb 4 Palestine

UM4P demanded disclosure within “one month” and that the process be overseen by an “independent body of our choice”.

“Disclosure will not be determined by the University alone.”

The University of Melbourne is yet to publicly confirm the agreement but, in a statement, welcomed the students’ decision to disband the camps.

Protesters have occupied the Parkville campus’ humanities building — which they dubbed Mahmoud’s Hall in honour of a prospective Palestinian student who was killed in Gaza — since May 15.

The sit-in prompted the university to cancel hundreds of classes in the building and threaten police intervention and disciplinary action for students and staff who refused orders to vacate.

UM4P’s statement also criticised the threats of punishment made against protesters, calling it a “gross injustice”.

They urged University of Melbourne Chancellor Jane Hansen to ensure protest participants were not penalised.

“The past month has proven that when united, the power of students and staff is something the University cannot hide from,” the statement read.

“This movement and our campaign has proven that our strength comes from being united as a collective.”

Tents at a Pro-Palestine encampment at the University of Melbourne
Pro-Palestine occupations at the University of Melbourne will pack up after the protesters reached a private agreement with the institution Credit: Con Chronis/AAP

Premier Jacinta Allan said the impending resolution was pleasing when asked if universities should be bowing to protesters’ demands.

“How that’s been resolved, we’ve always been clear that has been a matter for the university leadership,” she told reporters.

Victorian Greens leader Ellen Sandell commended the protesters for securing a “key win” and helping to “change the course of history”.

“This would not have happened without brave students peacefully standing up and demanding their institutions sever ties with these weapons manufacturers,” she said in a statement.

Vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell previously said the occupation had led to the cancellation or rescheduling of more than 600 classes, disrupting more than 16,800 students.

Pro-Palestine encampments have sprung up at university campuses across the nation after similar actions in the United States.

Encampments at Monash and La Trobe universities in Melbourne have been dismantled in recent days, with Deakin to end theirs on Thursday evening.

RMIT protesters are continuing their encampment as they prepare to rally, calling on the university to meet with them and disclose and divest from weapons manufacturers.

That university said it supported students’ right to exercise their freedom of speech and RMIT did not design, develop or manufacture weapons in the university or as part of any partnership.

The premier said the university encampments hadn’t changed her stance on rejecting a proposal for protest permits to be issued by police.

— with AAP

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