University threatens protesters with legal action

Tents and placards outside the Northern Stage building
The encampment has been in place outside the Northern Stage building since May [BBC]

A university has threatened to take legal action against pro-Palestine protesters camped on its grounds.

The group, known as Newcastle Coalition Apartheid Off Campus, has been outside Newcastle University since 1 May.

A university spokesperson said the student demonstration had attracted people unconnected with the university that wished to carry out "disruptive activism".

The protesters said they will not leave until the university cuts ties with businesses and universities connected to Israel.

In a letter handed to protesters on Friday, Newcastle University demanded the demonstration was moved from its grounds within 48 hours.

"Failure to do so will result in further action by the university to remove you from the lawn by the issue of court proceedings," the letter reads.

'Peaceful protest'

Newcastle University said its priority was to ensure the campus was "a safe and inclusive environment for all".

"We have previously made it clear to protestors on campus that their occupation of university land is unauthorised and unlawful, and on Friday formally asked them to vacate the area," a spokesperson said.

"We take seriously the safeguarding of colleagues and students, including those who are part of the encampment.

"What began as a peaceful student-led demonstration has become a focus for disruptive activism attracting people who are not connected with the university. This has resulted in the targeting of university activities, people, and property."

The university said it was remained "committed to allowing peaceful protest and supporting free speech within the law".

"We look forward to future dialogue about some of the issues raised during the protest," a statement added.

A spokesman for the encampment, who did not want to be named, said protesters planned to remain on the lawn for "as long as it takes" for the university to divest its interests from Israeli companies.

The spokesman standing in front of the encampment. He covers the bottom part of his face
The protesters said they were in it "for the long term" [Newcastle Coalition Apartheid Off Campus]

The protestors have increased their activism in recent weeks, and on 29 May occupied the university's Armstrong Building.

Two men in their 20s were arrested in connection with public order offences, and a man in his 60s was arrested for breach of the peace.

Members of Newcastle University's Jewish Society said they "avoid" walking past the protesters and at times feel "terrified".

The demonstration also spread to nearby Northumbria University, where masked protesters disrupted a talk on freedom of speech.

Addressing the university's concerns that some protesters were not connected with the university, the encampment's spokesman said: "There is a possibility people could be dangerous.

"However, we have been here for 55 days now and that has not happened yet. If it has or would happen we will deal with it properly."

The protesters have safeguarding, complaints and disciplinary procedures in place at the encampment, the spokesman added.

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