As the occupation of 11 University Gardens reaches its fourth day, activists increased their calls for the University to come to the table and discuss its involvement in the arms trade.
Beginning on Monday 22 January, activists from Glasgow Against Arms and Fossil Fuels (GAAF) occupied the building, demanding an immediate divestment of the roughly 5 million pounds that the University invests in companies such as BAE Systems and the Thales Group.
“This is our university, we should have a say in what’s happening and what education we are getting,” one of the activists said on Wednesday during a rally outside of the building. Several arms companies have appeared at University career fairs and are present in the University’s investment portfolio. GAAF and other local activists have taken action against this, both in the form of active protests outside of Thales’ factories and in protesting their presence on campus.
Activists stated that they have “exhausted all alternatives”, including petitions, protests, requests for meetings, and a 44-page policy brief.
The speakers from GAAF restated their demands, called for continued solidarity with Palestine, and put their support behind rectoral candidate Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah, an alumnus who has worked in several war-zone hospitals including in Gaza. He has also been a vocal critic of the Israel Defense Force and endorsed by the UofG Student Solidarity Coalition.
In a rally held on Wednesday, speakers from various groups gathered to show their support – including Stop the War, Living Rent, and the Marxist Society. These speeches all shared a similar theme of demanding divestment from the University, as well as the importance of continued solidarity with the Palestinian people. “This is not the end, this is just the beginning,” said the representative from Glasgow Stop the War. The messages of solidarity were also extended to Yemen and other places within the Middle East that have recently experienced bombing or other attacks.
Among the speakers was also Scottish Greens councillor Martha Wardrop, who represents the Hillhead constituency where the University is located. “I believe that we have to stand up for the most vulnerable and stand up for the people within the front line…as well as the humanitarian efforts,” she said, mentioning she has supported previous occupations of University buildings.
The last student occupation on University Gardens took place in the adjacent Hetherington House during 2011, lasting for nearly 7 months and becoming one of the longest student-led occupations in the UK. That occupation ended with the University meeting most of the demands surrounding funding cuts- and the current activists hope that their occupation will follow a similar path.
The University offered that if the activists left, there would be a meeting, but this has been rejected. The rally ended with a march on the University offices, where a finance meeting was being held, as activists claimed there was the promise of a vote that did not happen.
Correction: This article previously referred to the occupied building as “Hetherington House” and located at 13 University Gardens but has now been corrected to refer to George Service House which is located at 11 University Gardens.