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Bristol Students stage mass Die-in

Students staged a mass ‘die-in’ at Bristol University this week to protest the presence of BAE systems at a careers fair.

As reported in the university’s student newspaper EPIGRAM up to fifteen demonstrators chose the unconventional way of protesting by screaming and dropping to the floor. The group also used fake blood to simulate the victims of an arms attack.

The Bristol ‘Left’ Society organised the protest in conjunction with the Friends of Palestine Group.

Pro- Palestinian groups exist across the UK and are particularly popular among students. They are known for supporting the Palestinian cause and using both conventional and unconventional means to protest what they claim is an illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

Last year, a reported in The Journal, a talk by the Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub in Edinburgh was disrupted by protesters who were loudly criticising Mr Taub during the talk. Immediately prior to this up to 200 people had gathered outside to oppose the presence of the ambassador. This followed a mass rally the previous weekend criticising the Scottish government for hosting talks with an Israeli delegation visiting the Scottish capital.

Protesters have claimed that they will continue to oppose what they claim are human rights violations being committed by the Israeli state towards Palestinian people.

However, other university societies and organisations have criticised this approach suggesting the matter is more complex. Following the protests at Edinburgh last year a lecturer of politics moved to oppose the decision of the protesters to disrupt the talk by Daniel Taub and criticised them for causing the meeting to be abandoned. Others claimed that these actions by the pro-Palestine lobby were undemocratic by failing to allow an alternative voice to be heard on campus.

The debate over student protest is often a fine-line in the UK. Many groups oppose certain aspects of the world but questions often arise how far protest is a viable and reasonable medium of unrest and when it may infringe on other people’s liberties and rights to an expressed opinion.

Students often face criticisms in their methods of protest. Students are often asked to negotiate with police before launching a protest and are sometimes detained for causing public nuisances.

However, many students have pointed to the strict controls imposed upon protesters by police and alleged heavy-handling by authorities during demonstrations. Police often use a method known as ‘kettling’ where protesters are forced into a restricted area and allowed either one heavily controlled exit or no exit at all to keep the protest away from public areas. As reported in Forge Today the police came under criticism by students at the Royal Holloway University after it emerged uniformed and plain-clothes police officers used the ‘intimidating’ tactic of stop and search using sniffer dogs at the university’s student union in an attempt to find drugs.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

  • Are alternative protests a good idea?
  • Do the pro-Palestine lobby go too far in their methods of protest?
  • Should private meetings be disrupted and cancelled by protesters?
  • Do students have the right to cause disruption in protests?
  • Are the police too heavy handed with protesters?

Greg Bianchi

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