Protesters to meet with university staff over camps

May 17, 2024 by AAP
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Pro-Palestine students at a major Melbourne university will meet with staff for the first time since they set up camp inside a building, in a move branded a “significant safety risk”.

Pro-Palestine supporters at the University of Melbourne are in their third day of an indoor protest. Pic: James Ross/AAP

Demonstrators at the University of Melbourne occupied the Arts West building for a third day on Friday, setting up tents and deck chairs.

They have no plans to move on unless the university meets their demands, with a handful of protesters due to meet university representatives on Friday afternoon to attempt to resolve the conflict.

The protesters are demanding that the University of Melbourne disclose and divest its links to weapons manufacturing companies.

About 247 classes meant to be held in the building have been cancelled or rescheduled since Wednesday, impacting about 8300 students in the second-last week of the semester.

Signs were put up on Friday by the protesters indicating classes inside the building had been moved elsewhere by the university.

Organisers said the university had not given them formal orders to move on yet, which would open the door to Victoria Police being called.

Officers would only intervene if people were trespassing on private property and a formal report was made.

The university has labelled the building takeover a “significant safety risk” to students and staff and claims its property has been damaged.

“We are also deeply concerned by the escalation in action and disruptive intent of some, including external actors, to our Parkville campus,” it said on Friday.

“There is no doubt that this group has underestimated their intimidatory impact on members of our community.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urged the protesters to be respectful and not attack others.

“There is no place for some of the disrespectful ways in which some of these activities are happening – whether it be in some university campuses, or indeed, outside my electorate office,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

Victorian deputy opposition leader David Southwick, who has a petition calling for the encampment to end, held a press conference at the campus on Friday which was gatecrashed by a pro-Palestine lecturer and a protester.

On Thursday, the university issued a notice to non-students involved in the occupation warning that they were trespassing.

It has disabled elevators in the occupied building as well as student swipe cards allowing 24-hour access, protesters said.

The demonstrators are referring to the building as “Mahmoud Hall” in honour of Mahmoud Alnaouq, a Palestinian man killed in the Israel-Gaza war who was meant to study at the university.

Protestors have set up protest camps at five Victorian universities, one in every other state and one in the ACT.

Those at the University of Sydney have set up dozens of tents and are considering moving their protest indoors.

The Sydney students held a forum on Friday and invited Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott, but he did not attend.

Demonstrators at Monash University claim nine students have been accused of misconduct and could face suspension or expulsion.

Deakin University in Melbourne has issued directives for students to leave and the Australian National University in Canberra has told several students to leave the camp by the end of Friday.


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