Independent journalism about VU Amsterdam | Since 1953
21 June 2024

Campus
& Culture

Students put up encampment on campus square

Students and employees who want VU Amsterdam to cut its ties with Israel are dissatisfied with negotiations. So they have escalated with an encampment on campus.

According to the VU coalition of Students and Staff for Palestine, negotiations with the university have reached a dead end. ‘The encampment has the goal of bringing attention to the crisis in Gaza and to call for immediate action by the executive board by divesting and breaking ties with Israeli institutions. Otherwise they will be held accountable for being complicit in genocide’, they write in a statement.

‘No sex with cops’

The tents arose on June 3 around 12.30. The activists had already conceived the plan some time ago. First they tried to apply pressure with a big sit-in and various smaller actions. “We always planned to escalate if the VU wouldn’t listen”, says spokesperson and VU alumnus Jay. He’d rather not use his full name.

The encampment will be holding events and asked the public for supplies such as food, drinks and sleeping supplies. They also want to keep everything tidy. In their house rules they state that they are non-violent and want to keep the space clean and accessible. Vandalism is not allowed. There’s also a rule against having sex with cops.

No faith in framework

Two weeks ago VU Amsterdam announced a framework for (international) collaborations, which can for instance be used to scrutinize the university’s ties to Israeli companies. But the activists are not satisfied. Jay: “First of all, they did not indicate a time limit. Secondly, we want the ties to be cut until the research is finished.”

A small group of VU employees was standing by the camp shortly after it was put up. “There are a lot of colleagues in solidarity with the students. And even more colleagues are concerned about the safety of the protesting students. They really don’t want to see the police here”, says one of the employees.

Riot police

In a staff council meeting last week, Marcel Nollen of the VU executive board mentioned that the large police presence at the big sit-in was not there by invitation of VU Amsterdam. Rather it was the municipality that sent the police, because the organisers registered the protest with the municipality. The mobile unit, a form of riot police, was also standing by to potentially intervene. Nollen remarked the university lost ‘a bit of control’ of its campus due to the police presence. The municipality’s involvement is not self-evident, as the campus grounds are privately owned by the university.

For now, VU Amsterdam has not taken any action to remove the encampment. In an update on its website, the university states it is taking various precautions to ensure everyone’s safety and to allow all educational and research activities to continue.

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