Tuesday, 24 March 2009

MP's support occupations, and Newcastle Occupiers represent in Sheffield

See this link:
Early Day Motion
McDonnell, John
That this House praises the wave of student occupations across the country against Israel's unlawful invasion and bombing of Gaza; regrets that an estimated thousand Palestinians have been killed as a direct result of the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza with many more people injured and suffering ongoing hardship; and welcomes the engagement of young people in protesting against the unfolding human tragedy in Gaza by taking direct action at numerous institutions including Cambridge University, Essex University, Kings College London, Manchester Metropolitan University, Oxford University, Queen Mary University London and Sussex University.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Newcastle Occupation will be talking at the event hosted by Sheffield Occupiers later today, called 'Direct Action gets the goods'. More details of the ongoing occupation (now in a new space) heir blog www.sheffoccupied.blogspot.com, facebook event - http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/event.php?eid=153044590640

If you've come home to Sheffield now term's finished, or know anyone in Sheffield, do spread the word about the meeting, today at Jessop West building, 4:30pm. All Welcome.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

End of term update

Apologies for the silence on here. This is just a quick note to explain why, and to assure that is no bad sign: we're as busy as ever!

Term finished at Newcastle University this week, and we held a post-occupation public meeting. Discussed in this meeting was plans for the ongoing campaign, next terms activities and some wider talk about the broader aims, objectives and tactics of the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign (NUGSC). Largely though, our discussions have been focused on responding to University management's version of the post-negotiation situation (e.g. their practical response to our demands). The blog will be updated as soon as we have formulated a response to each demand, which will be very soon. The Pro VC and Registrar seem to have understood our negotiations in the same light as we have, which is good (details of this meeting are in a post below, with details of demands met etc). They have requested however that we take down some images from this site (of the occupation) that might be considered offensive to some Jewish or Israeli members of the University. We are formulating a response to this and also to the Jewish Society at the University, clearly explaining that our campaign is anti-racist and not in any way anti-semetic. Both these documents will also be here soon. We are also busy putting together the beginning of a dossier on disinvestment to present to the Exective Board (as a result of one of our demands) after the Easter break.

So - we're busy, and that's why we're quiet. But watch this space - lots of information will be available about how the campaign is progressing very soon.

Thanks for your patience and solidarity.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sheffield occupied!

Sheffield has occupied as of 7:15pm tonight.
Our solidarity to them - best wishes for a warm night and enough food!
See their blog and send your support www.sheffoccupied.blogspot.com

We're loosing count..!

Also - Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign will host a public meeting on Thursday evening. Exact time and location to be confirmed.
"After the Occupation: What's Next?" - please come to raise questions, ideas, discuss... and tell your friends. Details will be here tomorrow and on the facebook group.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

First negotiations + some initial demands are met

We left our meeting today with relative optimism. Some demands have been met, and others now have a timetabled course of action which we see as progress. The meeting was long, detailed and we felt we conducted it on our terms. We chaired the discussion and nominated negotiators to do most of the talking although 14 members of our group were present and able to contribute.

It is worth noting that Pro-VC for Exchanges Paul Younger was personally impressed by our action and encouraged that there was 'finally' student activism at Newcastle University. Like Dr. Trottier, he has knowledge of Palestine and has lead 'capacity building' projects in the West Bank and Gaza and seemed genuinely interested in our demands. Dr. Trottier expressed that she was 'glad that we took political action'. Similarly, John Hogan admitted that (although he does not support direct action against the university)'the occupation did increase our awareness' of legitimate issues and ultimately made this meeting possible.

And, in an act of good-will, John Hogan bought us all lunch.

The result of the meeting was verbally decided actions on all of our demands (some met, some not yet), which will be written and sent to us by the University representatives within 5 working days. Because that document will be more detailed and published here, it is not worth writing at length about the discussions. The basic points on all our demands (and the action we anticipate) are noted as follows:

1: Newcastle University to issue a statement - demand met:

We demanded that the university issue a public statement in support of Gaza and recognising the humanitarian crisis that the people of Gaza are now facing. We asked Newcastle University to issue a statement similar to Oxford University's statement because we share a VC with Oxford. We though drawing this parallel would be persuasive, but it turned out not to be. The University representatives will issue a statement. A draft of the wording of this will be sent to us before hand, within 5 working days. Following discussions this afternoon about the University's refusal to be 'political' on the issue of Israel and Palestine because of its status as an 'educational charity'. We did not think this was a sufficient excuse, particularly as under the Charities Act of 2005, charities can align themselves politically. We demanded in addition that the statement acknowledge an internationally recognised body, such as the UN, which supports an investigation into Israel's action on Gaza with respect to international law. They accepted this.

2: Newcastle University will facilitate us bringing the issue of arms investments to the finance council - demand not met, but action will be taken to facilitate a process:

Our demand was that Newcastle University adopt the same ethical policy towards arms as it does towards tobacco companies. It's policy towards tobacco is for "that part of the portfolio which is managed on a direct basis investment in tobacco companies is not permitted". We additionally demanded this apply to indirect investments and therefore a complete disinvestment from the arms trade (£527,000 is invested in various arms companies including BAE systems as of January 2009).

This was a very long discussion. The basics of it being: a) there are many bureaucratic bodies which deal with such decisions, but ultimately it is the Finance Council who have the authority to change investment policy,b) the immediate demand can not be met because the council cannot practically be called into emergency meeting to review investment policy and change it (many people on the board are not employed by the university and therefore are not necessarily here) c) efforts like this have been made before and failed, d) our case is strong in reference to the implications of having an ethical policy on tobacco and not on arms, however Paul Younger predicts views from the Finance Council and others that cigarettes are more dangerous than weapons because weapons can be used in defence (!) We don't accept this argument with regard to investing indiscriminately in major arms companies.

However, Paul Younger did seem to be on our side on this matter as did Dr. Trottier. Paul Younger even said that before our action, he was not aware of the details of Newcastle University's arms investments and neither was the Vice Chancellor. In addition to this, they have received emails from members of staff who were also not aware and are against it. This is very positive, and we are going to contact the UCU and academics to join the campaign for dis-investment.

Action: We were offered a chance to present our case to the Executive Board (which includes the VC, Pro-VC for Engagement, Registrar, Executive Director of Finance - also on the Finance Council) as the next step. Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign will produce a dossier of our view on the matter, including research and persuasive reasons why Newcastle University should dis-invest from the arms trade. Paul Younger has offered to personally help with the document, should we request this. The executive board meets weekly, and we are assured that we can be put on the agenda if we give notice of this by the end of the week before. John Hogan and Paul Younger (both on the exec' board) will ask if we can send delegates from our group to present our dossier. If this is refused, Paul Younger has said he will present it on our behalf. After this, we will take steps to take it to the Finance Council.

3. Newcastle University will 'actively support' our campaign and its projects - demand met:

a) a collection of computers, books etc for the Islamic University of Gaza (ICU)

Basic agreement with this, providing we link up with other universities in the area who are doing the same to perhaps share the costs of transport etc. The University Representatives admitted that we have a lot of surplus equipment that can be put to good use elsewhere, and also stated that the University already have mechanisms in place for sending academic materials to developing countries.

b) the visit of a student delegation to the ICU to establish their requirements/how we can best help them:

Basic agreement with this, and even some suggestions to build on this in a number of ways, including in the trip institutions in Gaza, the West Bank and also Israel. Dr. Trottier and Paul Younger both have colleagues in these places and are happy to liaise with them. John Hogan expressed his view that this trip would have to be from an 'educational' perspective, rather than a 'political' one, when of course we acknowledge that it will be both educational and political. The purpose of our campaign is to help people in Palestine, but we would be interested in visiting institutions in Israel too and making links with Israelis that support the Palestinian cause.Paul Younger suggested this trip could happen this summer, and at least be partly funded by Newcastle University. He also mentioned his interest in coming with us.

c) the university will actively support the campaign in following up on those needs.

NB. Our initial demand for scholarships remains in essence - we demand that those in Gaza have the same right to an education as we do. Our negotiations of the demands before leaving the occupation convinced us that scholarships are not necessarily the only or best way to help. We discussed how it would be better to find ways to help Gazan students remain in Gaza and study freely. Either way, we felt that we should establish what the needs are before we assume how we best can offer support.

d) the University supports us in campaigning for an ethical trade policy with regard to Israel

But this one remains 'our project'... Paul Younger explained how Newcastle was a 'fair trade' University, but we remain un-convinced that this makes much difference with regard to trading with Israel. However, we did discuss before leaving the occupation that there were many problems with demanding a blanket boycott of Israeli goods - largely practical. We perhaps need to assess this demand again, and work out what we really want from the University.

Paul Younger is going to 'start from scratch' on a Policy for Cooperate Responsibility this year, and has said that we can be involved in the making of it...

e) Newcastle University will publicise the DEC appeal for aid on notice boards around campus

4. Newcastle University supports new and ongoing collaborations with IUG, including distance education tools to link Newcastle students and IUG students - demand met:

Paul Younger and Dr. Trottier's contacts will be vital in this, and they are willing and supportive of the initiative.

5. Newcastle University will conduct a public review of the rules and regulations which currently restrict political activism on campus. Furthermore, the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign will no longer face restrictions on leafleting about our events, meetings etc on campus - demand met:

John Hogan has assured us that should we face problems again when we are campaigning on campus in a peaceful manner, we should call him. This is good news for our campaign, but we made it clear that this was not enough - there are specific restrictions on 'political' flyer's, leaflets etc which do not apply in the same way to other kinds of information dissemination. John Hogan agreed that it was problematic that political events were scrutinised this way and also agreed that 'offence' or the receiving of a complaint was not a legitimate excuse to stop the action. He will conduct a public review and we will be involved/kept up to date on this.

Phew! Well, that's the basic jist. When we receive the University's versions of the agreements, they will be blogged here. We feel that our campaign is now in a stronger position to carry on putting pressure on the University and that our progress today simply wouldn't have happened had we not taken direct action. We are not satisfied with what we've got, but we see it as definite progress and are therefore optimistic.

For the last week of term, we'll be doing lots of research into arms investments, building our network and support with staff and students and continuing a campaign of awareness raising on campus. Keep checking back!



The start of negotiations

A group of us are currently in negotiations at the Students Union with Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Younger, university Registrar Dr. John Hogan and specialist in the Middle East Dr. Julia Trottier.

So far we have summarised why we decided to occupy the university and the action that we took prior to occupying. We then outlined how the occupation went and what happened and why we left. After this we formally stated our demands (re-itterating that these were already negotiated, revised demands and thus the bare minimum of what we want post-the occupation) and requested a signed declaration from Paul Younger that no student who took part or supported the occupation would face disiplinary measures now, or in the future. He signed this straight-away.

The university then addressed our demands one by one.

At present we're breaking for lunch and discussing our response.

The discussions do seem to be fruitful initially but their are some minor issues re. semantics, wording and the responsibility of the university as an educational charity.

We're here until 4pm and there is a strong feeling, I believe, that we will be far from drawing a line under this by then.

In other news the Newcastle Chronicle has printed an article on our action that is less than supportive of our cause. It is also unrepresentative of everything that we stood for and the approach that we took to the action. We will be contacting them.


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Demands re-draft, and the next step - WE ARE LEAVING THE OCCUPATION

It's been a very exciting couple of hours! After talks within our group which were looking like a decision to leave the occupation after 28 hours with a vague promise of a meeting with the registrar, we re-drafted our demands and are now preparing to enter negotiations with senior members of University Management. The demands were re-drafted to make them clearer and more concise, with more detailed directions. Our final demands now read as follows:

*Newcastle University to issue the same public statement as Oxford University expressing “concern for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza” and stating, “it is regrettable that many civilian casualties occurred in educational institutions.”

*Adopt the same ethical policy towards the arms trade as towards its tobacco industry policy, with a timetable of implementation. This includes indirect investments.

*Newcastle University supports the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign’s coming projects of a) collecting computers, software, books etc for the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) and b) the visit of a student delegation from Newcastle University to IUG to establish their needs, c) the ensuing student projects to follow up on those needs, d) developing an ethical investment and trade policy with respect to Israel, e) publicising the Disaster and Emergency Committee’s appeal for aid.

*Newcastle University supports new and ongoing academic collaborations with IUG, including distance education tools to link University of Newcastle Students and IUG students.

*Review of rules and regulations that will allow political activism in a variety of channels. This includes leafleting, flyers, posters, and meetings.

John Hogen, the Registrar, has signed the following statement and we are to meet tomorrow to begin negotiations on our terms:

We will leave the occupation this evening on the condition that:
John Hogan will meet with Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign at 12pm on March 12th, on equal terms for meaningful negotiations on our revised demands to begin. The Vice Chancellor and/or Paul Younger will be present as well as Dr. Trottier.

Julia Trottier is a member of academic staff with a great knowledge of the middle east, who has been recently a lot of help to the occupiers. She came to talk to us in the occupied space and to express her support. Paul Younger is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement.

We are excited about the talks tomorrow. The occupation itself has ended at this point because we have been promised that the necessary steps will be taken immediately for our demands to be realised. We have no guarentee, of course, that our demands will be met, but are confident that the appropriate people will be present at these talks to continue our campaign effectively. This was our democratically chosen condition for the occupation.

We will not rule out further direct action if the University management go back on their word.

We are aware that tomorrow's meeting is in many ways more important than what has gone on so far. We will know more tomorrow about where we really stand and whether negotiations look like they will be successful.

It's been great! We are tired and now we are going to the pub to plan for tomorrows important meeting - the next step. THANK YOU FOR YOUR MESSAGES OF SUPPORT.

Pictures from the Occupation

BBC tyneside!

BBC Tyne have reported on our occupation - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tyne/7937651.stm

We've been occupying now for over 24 hours. We are currently deciding our moves for tonight.

We have been offered a series of facilitated negotiations with the registrar and other members of university management which we will demand: start tomorrow, include the Vice Chancellor and anyone from the Gaza Solidarity Campaign that wish to be present. If this declaration is signed by John Hogan, we will leave the occupation tonight and build the campaign on the outside, not ruling out direct action if those negotiations are unsatisfactory to our demands. If not, we stay.

Messages of support

We are grateful to the many people who are sending us messages of support.
These include:

Professors and Lecturers from Newcastle University
Durham University Socialist Worker Student Society
Tyne and Wear Socialist Workers Party
RMT Trade Union
Dave Harker
Secretary, North East Shop Stewards' Network
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
Lindsey German, convenor, Stop the War Coalition.
Bryony Shanks – Palestine Solidarity Campaign Student Officer
Marcus Maus
Cardiff Students Against War
John Rees and National officers of the Stop the War Coalition.

Student support from;
Newcastle University
University of Sheffield
University of Northumbria
Durham University
University of Essex
University of Birmingham
University of Oxford
University of Sunderland
University of Edinburgh
University of Huddersfield
Aberystwyth University
University of Miami
Kings College London
University of Leeds
University of Sussex
University of Teeside
University of Glasgow
University of Aberdeen
University of Bradford
University of Liverpool
Queen Mary University of London
University of Salford
University of Lincoln
University of Manchester

Demonstrate in support of the occupation!

We are asking supporters to come and demonstrate outside the occupation -
Fine Art building lecture theatre, the corner of Kings Road (the bit with banners, windows..) 1pm.

We have been offered a facilitated negotiation process by John Hogan, and are still discussing whether to accept this and end the occupation or to continue and reject this offer which does not make any guarantees as to our demands being met.
Up to date:

We have spent our first night in occupation of the Fine Arts Building on Newcastle University campus. We have finalised a list of demands - these are listed below. Despite last nights talks with John Hogan, Registrar for Newcastle University, when he assured us we would be able to be 'fed and watered', security stepped up their presence this morning and refused food to be let in for the occupiers and limited our access to toilets. Still no food has been let into the building. We have enough for a little while longer.

Talks: John Hogan, as planned, came to the occupation to speak to us at 8:30am this morning. He urged us to leave. He has threatened disaplinary measures if we continued. His 'concession' to us was to propose a meeting to be set up where he could 'explain to us the processes of reaching our demands through legitimate channels' providing we ended the occupation straight away. He did not give us any reason to think that any of our demands would be met at this meeting, and so we refused to end the occupation. He refused to talk with us within the occupied space. We compromised with him and called for an immediate meeting with three delegates from our group and himself in a 'neutral place'. They are currently talking in the Student Union building.

Lectures: Despite taking a vote yesterday that we would not disrupt lectures from going ahead and explaining this to John Hogan this morning, we have since heard that the University has cancelled todays lectures in the occupied space. Security is being stepped up and there are now a number of police officers outside. We have not yet had any contact with the police. Despite this, the occupation is going strong. We are spending the time until the delegation returns contacting press, friends, etc and building for a demonstration which is planned for 12 noon outside the occupied space. Because security is tight, we do not know how much we can plan for events within the occupation, but urge supporters to join the demo at 12!

We have had messages of support from members of staff, academics, fellow occupiers, students, trade unions. Thank-you! Keep messages coming to newcastleoccupation@gmail.com. You can also email our VC Chris Brink chris.brink@newcastle.ac.uk and urge him to consider our demands. He has not yet made any contact with us.

Come back for more news as it comes.

In solidarity,
Newcastle Occupiers.


It's 8:20am - the security has been stepped up and they are stopping outside supporters from bringing food into the occupied space.


John Hogan is due to arrive in 10 minutes. For a man whose main concern was that we were fed and watered this is pretty interesting behaviour.

Please email or contact John Hogan to demand that they let food into the occupation


0191 2226078

more after the negotiations


Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Finalised Demands

We are occupying in solidarity with the people of Palestine and as part of a nation-wide student movement, following the recent massacres in Gaza and ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories by the Israeli government. We, the students of Newcastle University, believe that our institution should speak out in support of Palestine.


* Newcastle University issues a public statement condemning Israel’s recent attack on Gaza and the continuing illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.

* Newcastle University divests its annual 3% in the arms trade, and develops an ethical and transparent investment policy.

* Newcastle University creates a scholarship programme for a minimum of 10 Palestinian students per year who have had their right to an education taken away because of the ongoing conflict.

* Newcastle University boycotts Israeli goods and companies.

* Newcastle University supports its students in political actions and campaigning, and lifts the restrictions on flyering/postering on campus.

* Newcastle University provides academic aid and financial support to The Islamic University of Gaza.

* Newcastle University co-ordinates a fund and awareness raising campaign on behalf of medical aid for Palestinians, including publicising the Disaster and Emergency Committee’s appeal for aid through posters on all message boards and a banner on the University website.

Our demands include terms of negotiations:

* There will be no recriminations against any student involved in or supporting this occupation at any point either during or after its duration.

* Access to the occupied space will be under the control of the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign during this occupation - this includes access to the toilets downstairs.

* We will have freedom of access for ourselves and other supporters into our occupied space.

* No security staff or other unauthorised persons will breach any of the doors to the occupied space during this occupation.

Good News

Since our last post we have had issues with the pre-conditions established between ourselves and Mr. John Hogan.

Two members of our group left for an hour and a half and were refused entry back into the Fine Art Lecture Theatre.

Obviously this broke the agreement that the occupation had made with the university registrar and came as an outrage to us.

Fortunately though, after much deliberation and protesting to the security staff and a phone call to Mr. Hogan they were let back into the occupied space. The security staff seemed to be employing a tactic of singling small numbers of people out and pleading ignorance of them ever being here upon their return. We made it clear that we wanted to see the CCTV footage of these activists leaving maybe it was no coincidence that they were allowed to rejoin?

In an addition to this, a group of 8 activists have been allowed to join the occupation. This happened at around 9:20 and has been a massive boost to morale. As far as we know the security let these activists into the Fine Art Building after a lengthy conversation about the reasons we are here.


The Occupation Begins

Well well well, it's been kind of an eventful afternoon.

Around 25 of us are occupying the fine arts lecture theatre in solidarity with the people of palestine.

Our demands are as follows:

Newcastle University issue a statement that condemns Israel’s recent action in Gaza that has led to the deaths of over 1400 Palestinian people. We urge the Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University to take measures to provide academic aid and financial support to The Islamic University of Gaza and develop a scholarship programme for Palestinian students who have had their right to an education taken away because of the conflict. We also call for Newcastle University to disinvest from the arms trade completely. In addition to this we demand that the university lifts its ban on flyering and raising awareness of political causes on campus. Our final demand is that the university should co-ordinate a fund and awareness raising campaign on behalf of medical aid for Palestinians.

After some initial confusion over getting into the lecture theatre we successfully managed to secure ourselves inside the building and hang up banners posters etc. The vice-chancellor, executive office and students union president have all been notified as well as local and national press.

Security weren't that quick off the mark so we're very secure inside, in all honesty they looked a little confused.

A Mr. John Hogan (the university registrar) came over at around 5:45. He told us that the university would not negotiate with us whilst the occupation was taking place but would be willing to discuss matters, and I quote, "in a comfy office". After a 45 minute break we met again with Mr. Hogan and delivered to him the following pre-conditions;

If all four pre-conditions are met then locks on the doors will be removed for the evening of 10th March 2009.

§ There will be no recriminations against any student involved in or supporting this occupation at any point either during or after its duration.
§ Access to the occupied space will be under the control of the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign during this occupation, this includes access to the toilets downstairs.
§ We will have freedom of access for ourselves and other supporters into our occupied space.No security staff or other unauthorised persons will breach any of the doors to the occupied space during this occupation.

In repsonse to this he ensured that those in the occupation have freedom of movement inside the occupied space and that security would not remove any of us. He also agreed to us staying here the night and that "at the current" time there will be no recriminations against any student involved in or supporting the campaign.

He is returning tomorrow morning bright and early (8:30am) to reconvene negotiations.


Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign