Gaza war protesters set up camp at Senate House ahead of Cambridge University graduations

Protests at Cambridge University, where pro-Palestine protesters have set up camp.
Picture date 7 May 2024.
Credit: PA
Protesters pictured on 7 May, after the camp was set up at King's College. Credit: PA

A protest at Cambridge University against the war in Gaza has spread to a lawn outside Senate House, where members of the university have graduated since the 18th century.

Graduation ceremonies are due to take place this Friday and Saturday, according to the university’s website.

Protesters have vowed to continue until a set of demands are met.

The university said it would be “happy to talk with our students and engage with them” but it was “impossible to have a conversation with an anonymous group”.

An encampment outside King’s College appeared at the start of last week, and now activists have also pitched a ring of almost 20 tents on Senate House Lawn.

The 'Keep off the grass' signs have been amended by protesters. Credit: PA

Palestine flags have been draped from the Grade II-listed urn in the centre of the lawn, and a white sheet has been fixed below it with “welcome to liberated zone” written on it.

The flags have also been taped to the columns of Senate House and to some walls, and a “please keep off the grass” sign modified so it reads: “please keep off Palestine”.

A banner has also been taped to the doors of Senate House which read “Refaat’s house”, and a number of protesters wearing face coverings sat by the door at the top of some steps.

The writer and literary scholar Refaat Alareer was killed in an air strike in Gaza City in December.

More than 30 tents were set up on the lawn outside King's College on 7 May. Credit: PA

Professor Bhaskar Vira, pro-vice-chancellor for education at the University of Cambridge, said: “The university has been in regular and ongoing contact with students who have been impacted by the tragic events in Gaza and Palestine.

“We support freedom of speech and protest within the law.

“From the first day of this protest last week, with my colleague Prof Kamal Munir, we have been extremely clear that we would be happy to talk with our students and engage with them.

“To date we have received only anonymous emails.

Protesters took their demands to university management after walking through the streets of Cambridge. Picture date: 7 May. Credit: PA

“We remain ready for constructive engagement with our students, but it is impossible to have a conversation with an anonymous group.”

A Cambridge student, who did not wish to be named, said last week that the protesters were demanding that the university “disclose all of its research collaborations and financial ties with companies and institutions complicit in Israel’s genocide and then to divest from these”.

“We will be staying here until our demands are met,” she said.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know