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UK: LSE becomes first British university to evict pro-Palestine student encampment

The London School of Economics evicted its students after receiving a court order to disperse the encampment
The University of Birmingham and Queen Mary University in London are also pursuing court orders to evict students from their encampments (MEE/Areeb Ullah)

A university in London has become the first British institution to evict its students from an encampment for Gaza after receiving a court order to disperse them. 

Wearing masks and scarves to cover their faces, students and staff chanted "Free, free Palestine" as dozens of students at the London School of Economics left a university building on Monday which they had occupied for more than 30 days. 

Forming a human chain, students frantically threw bin bags full of belongings out of the Marshall Building after the LSE obtained a court order to evict the students by 4pm on Monday. 

Using megaphones and flags, other students continued to make their presence heard as security staff told them to leave the building because of a court order. 

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The eviction comes after a hearing on Friday at the Central London County Court that ruled in favour of the LSE and gave them an interim possession order, requiring the encampment to leave the Marshall Building within 24 hours of being served. 

A spokesperson for the LSE encampment said they would remain defiant and continue to call for the school to divest despite this latest setback.

"The LSE intends to crush our resolve and power, but they cannot engage with us legitimately on ethical or political grounds," said the encampment spokesperson.

"Narrative is our power, and the narrative is on our side now and until Palestine is free. 

"Eviction will not end our movement; it has only empowered us further. We will not stop. We will not rest until LSE divests."

'Eviction will not end our movement; it has only empowered us further. We will not stop. We will not rest until LSE divests'

- Encampment spokesperson

Before the eviction, hundreds of students and staff gathered outside the encampment to support the student protesters as they left.

Speakers, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also addressed a rally in support of the students. 

Demands pursued by the encampment include divestment from companies identified as profiting from Israel's war on Gaza, scholarships for Palestinian students and calls for the university to assist Amena al-Ashkar, a Palestinian student who was denied a visa by the UK government to study for a doctorate at LSE.

During the hearing, Judge Moses acknowledged that students had a right to protest, but said: "What it does not do is give parties an unfettered right to occupy other parties' premises with a view to protesting, particularly when they are required to leave." 

Students launched the encampment in May after the LSE Student Union's Palestine Society released a report titled "Assets in Apartheid". The report said the LSE had invested £89m ($113m) in 137 companies involved in possible war crimes in Gaza, the arms industry and fossil fuels. 

A spokesperson for the LSE said the decision to pursue a court order came after two assessments it conducted concluded that the encampment was a potential fire risk and that students involved in the protest camp could face possible harm if they weren't dispersed.

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"On Friday 14 June the civil court granted LSE an interim possession order (IPO) to end the unauthorised occupation of the Marshall Building. This was applied for following careful consideration, including in relation to the safety of the protesters," said the spokesperson.

"This decision was taken after exhausting all other options.

"The order required us to serve it on the protesters within 48 hours, no later than 4.15pm on Sunday 16 June, after which they would have 24 hours to vacate.  In accordance with the IPO, all protesters must have vacated the Atrium, Marshall Building by 4pm today. We hope to fully reopen the building to our school as soon as possible after that."

Taking inspiration from encampments at American universities, dozens of universities across Britain have launched encampments in response to the ongoing war on Gaza. 

Other UK universities, including Queen Mary University and Birmingham University, are also pursuing court orders to evict their students.

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