Police warn uni chancellors over student protest camps

May 10, 2024 by AAP
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Victoria Police has warned universities there is a strong likelihood of violence if student encampments are not disbanded and counter-protests are left uncontrolled.

Police stand between members of the Jewish community and a Pro-Palestine encampment. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson wrote to university chancellors on Thursday, saying police were being called daily to camps with complaints.

Mr Paterson said there was concern about the number of protesters who were not students “inflaming the situation”.

“Police believe there is a strong likelihood of violence occurring between protest and counter protest groups, as well as other criminal offences occurring such as property damage if the encampments continue to grow in size,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

Mr Paterson asked the chancellors to consider risks associated with allowing the encampments to be established or continue.

Hundreds of students across the University of Melbourne along with RMIT, Monash, Deakin and Latrobe universities have pitched tents and staged sit-ins at campuses’ major meeting points since April.

The groups have vowed not to move until their institutions cut ties with Israel and associated weapons manufacturers in protests mirroring others involving students around the world.

Students for Palestine organiser Madeline Curkovic said their protest was peaceful and suggested Israel supporters would be to blame if anything did boil over.

“The issues (police) are referring to have been very distorted,” she told ABC Radio on Friday.

Ms Curkovic alleged members of the pro-Palestine encampment had been attacked by pro-Israel supporters and said they planned to press charges.

The Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) has been contacted for comment.

Tensions escalated at the University of Melbourne’s encampment upon the arrival of dozens of Israeli supporters on May 2.

Protesters from both sides spent more than an hour chanting words of opposition near the camp’s entrance on the campus’ south lawn.

AUJS president Noah Loven told supporters his group stood in opposition to the encampment.

Several hundred pro-Israel supporters earlier gathered at the campus’ University Square, led by Jewish students who said they felt unsafe on campus.


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