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Protestors end five-day Wills Memorial occupation after Bristol Uni threatens legal action

A statement from the occupiers says the University was ‘forced to cancel offer holder day events’ and ‘began legal proceedings to bring the occupiers to court’.

By Will Standring, News Editor

Student Action Bristol has confirmed that the student occupation of the Wills Memorial Great Hall ended on Saturday (March 23rd) after the University began legal proceedings against the occupiers.

Their decision to leave Wills came about despite a refusal from the University to accept their eight demands (see list below), which was the occupiers' initial contingency for vacating the hall.

However, they say, when faced with ‘legal proceedings to bring the occupiers to court’ they ‘made the decision not to extend the occupation beyond the planned week of disruption’.

The occupation began at around 12:30 last Tuesday (March 19th) and was the third student occupation of a Bristol University building in protest against Bristol Uni's ties to Israel amid the conflict in Gaza.

Wills Memorial's occupation followed similar protests in the Victoria Rooms and the university's executive management offices at 5 Tyndall Avenue by the group Bristol Occupy for Palestine. Epigram can confirm that the management building remains occupied.

The occupiers claim that the University was ‘forced to cancel offer holder day events, meetings with industry and VIP visits’ due to the occupation. They are celebrating the occupation's raising of awareness of Unis ties to Israel amongst the student community and claim to have received ‘millions of views on social media’.

Solidarity demonstrations took place outside Wills Memorial on the day of the occupation and on Friday (March 22nd).

The university's executive management offices at 5 Tyndall Avenue are still under occupation - Roya Shahidi

Protestors have alleged that ‘the University of Bristol is complicit in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people’ because of its ties to arms companies and Israeli companies.

The occupiers' initial eight demands for vacating Wills Memorial were:
1. Assurance of no repercussions for anyone involved in the occupation and that anyone can leave at any time.  
2. Basic necessities for the occupiers. 
Access to toilet facilities, privacy for the occupiers at the risk of being watched and passage for food and medicine supplies. 
3. To sever all ties with Arms companies. To cease any arms companies being featured on the Careers Service website/portal. To end all research contracts with arms companies, including but not limited to BAE systems, Airbus and Rolls Royce. 
4. To cut all ties with Israel to comply with BDSA financial and academic boycott of Israel.
5. To end the use of the check-in app.
6. To not reinstate year abroad placements in Israel. 
7. Actions to support Palestine and Palestinians.
 To grant any students affected by the crisis ‘exceptional circumstances’ about assessments. To protect ‘anti-Zionist beliefs’. To confirm staff and students will not be punished for ‘holding anti-Zionist beliefs’. To offer scholarships to displaced Palestinians  
8. To demand the University expand protest rights at the university so that students can attach banners and disrupt commercial and educational activities 

Regarding this development, a University of Bristol spokesperson said: ‘We always respect the rights of our students to peacefully protest within the law. We have a statutory duty to comply with health and safety legislation.

'Despite attempts to engage with the occupiers about this, we could not ignore the fact that they were refusing to follow basic health and safety regulations which was putting them and other students and staff studying and working in the building at risk.

'In order to keep them and everyone safe, we took the regrettable step to begin legal proceedings to evict them. They left the Great Hall on Saturday afternoon shortly after they were officially informed of this.’

Featured Image: Student Action Bristol

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