Stand-Offs Over Pro-Palestine Student Protests Continue in Australia

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Universities around the nation are refusing to give into the demands of pro-Palestine demonstrators camped out on campuses as a stand-off at a Melbourne university continues.

Saturday, May 18, was the fourth day demonstrators had occupied a building at the University of Melbourne in Parkville, with students saying they had no plans to leave after failed talks with university leaders.

The encampment inside the Arts West building prompted 247 classes to be rescheduled, affecting more than 8,000 students across three days.

The university says the protest is a safety risk and police “may choose” to attend campus at any time but so far have not been asked to intervene.

A spokesperson said the protest had caused fear and distress and anyone taking part who was not a student could be referred to law enforcement.

But demonstrators say they will not go anywhere until the university discloses and divests any links to weapons manufacturing companies.

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“They’re trying to threaten us and intimidate us with the threat of police and then bring us to the table and pretend that they are serious about negotiating when clearly they are not,” an organiser told reporters on May 17.

Demonstrators refer to the Arts West building as “Mahmoud Hall” in honour of Mahmoud Alnaouq, a Palestinian man killed in the Israel-Hamas war who was meant to study at the university.

At Monash University, protesters claimed their camp was “forcefully dismantled” however, the university said organisers had told them of plans to pack up the encampment.

It was one of five set up at Victorian universities, with one in every other state and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

A pro-Israel camp at the University of Queensland was disbanded on May 17 but a pro-Palestine camp remained.

“The university’s objective is to discontinue the camps as soon as possible,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said in a statement.

She said the university would “take appropriate action” over incidents that did not align with the institution’s code of conduct but did not detail potential further action.

Student protesters at the Australian National University in Canberra have been told to leave or the university could consider disciplinary action.

La Trobe University in Melbourne also told protest organisers to disband their encampment at the Bundoora campus late on May 17.

“Although the protests at La Trobe have been relatively peaceful and no classes have been interrupted to date, the university has considered the risks associated with the continued encampment activity and has taken this decision in the interests of the safety, wellbeing and amenity of all campus users and visitors,” it said in a statement.

At the University of Sydney, demonstrators wanted Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott to attend a public forum on May 17 but he declined.

They have promised to continue their encampment and have not ruled out moving inside like students in Melbourne.

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