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Encampment at Mile End

The protest encampment at Mile End was set up on 13 May 2024. When it was set up, it related to the events going on in the Middle East. Encampments have been set up at circa 35 universities across the UK.

Everyone is deeply concerned about the ongoing, awful events in the Middle East, including the horrifying impacts on innocent civilians. Members of our communities with links to the region are of course particularly affected. There is support available for anyone affected: for students, please reach out via your School/Institute or our Student Wellbeing Hub, and for staff, please either talk to your line manager or use our Employee Assistance Programme. We ask everyone within our diverse and inclusive Queen Mary community to continue to come together to support each other, with compassion, understanding and empathy for others’ pain. Read our statement on the conflict in the Middle East.

Initial response to the encampment

The demonstrators did not seek authorisation to use our campus as required by our code of practice. Our initial response was to monitor the impact of the demonstration on our staff and student communities and the regular activities of the University, whilst being mindful of our legislative duty to promote free speech. We communicated to staff and students that we would keep our position under review in consideration of our wider duties to foster good relations between members of our communities, assure safety and security of our communities, and the need to ensure all University activities can proceed unhindered.

Rallies and health and safety risks

On 15 May, there was a rally associated with the encampment, which included a significant number of external people. Protestors stormed onto our Mile End campus, and the rally resulted in criminal damage and a significant health and safety risk to our communities. External individuals came onto our campus, whose intent was clearly to cause damage and disruption. The behaviour of these external individuals was threatening and intimidatory. During the rally, protestors climbed onto our property putting themselves, and anyone they may have fallen onto, at significant risk.

The following day (16 May), an email was sent to all staff and all students indicating we would now request the encampment to disperse. You can read the associated letter delivered to the encampment requesting them to disperse.

On 21 May, there was further potentially unlawful activity around the encampment. Our security team intervened, and called the police and gave them all available evidence to support their enquiries. We encouraged the encampment to engage with the police; they declined to do so. As a result of this unlawful activity, ‘wanted’ posters with the faces of our staff and students appeared on social media and in the local area. This put the individuals concerned in fear for their personal safety and is completely unacceptable.

The encampment was instructed to disperse again.

In relation to our internal policies, where the behaviour of any staff member or student breaches any of our University policies we will investigate and act appropriately in line with these policies. 

It also became clear that some staff and students were scared to come onto campus.  

Between 13 May and 8 June, five rallies have been held associated with the encampment, all of which have included external individuals who have been invited onto our campus without any procedure being followed. Without our processes being followed, we cannot protect our communities from hate speech and incitement. It is clear that some of these external individuals simply intend to disrupt, to intimidate and to cause damage. The risks arising from this behaviour are not manageable.

Pressure on our security colleagues in trying to manage these rallies safely, even with the required presence of the police, is unsustainable.

In the rally on 31 May, a number of unauthorised people entered the Queens’ Building, and an external speaker was again invited onto our campus by the encampment, without following our processes.

During this rally, a student’s safety was put very clearly at life-threatening risk.

Given the health and safety risks of their actions, and the wilful subversion of the processes we have in place to protect our campus communities, the encampment was, for the third time, instructed to disperse on 3 June, and an email was sent to staff and students.

Involvement of external individuals

People external to our University are involved in the encampment, and in the associated rallies. Whilst we would always seek to uphold our duty to free speech, when hosting external speakers it is imperative that our procedures are followed, so that we can protect our communities from hate speech and incitement and ensure the health and safety of our communities.

It is quite clear that some of the encampments at universities across the country, including the one at our Mile End campus, are a focal point for individuals whose fundamental aim is to course disruption, intimidation and to cause damage.

Cancellation of University events

Several events have had to be cancelled owing to the University not being able to guarantee the health and safety of our staff, students and visitors with the encampment in place and resulting behaviours, including, sadly, our annual Festival of Communities. This is an event looked forward to by participating staff and students and local residents alike; it is normally attended by circa 8,000 local residents and their families. With the encampment in place, the risk of a rally, and the resulting behaviours we could not guarantee the safety of our participating staff and students, or attendees, and hence had no choice but to cancel.

Dispersal of encampment

Between 15 May and 6 June the encampment was requested several times to disperse. These requests were ignored. We have also tried to explain to members of the encampment the serious nature of the risks their behaviours are causing, and the serious risk caused by inviting external individuals onto campus without following our processes. This has also been ignored. We therefore had no option but to pursue a legal route to disperse the encampment. On 6 June a legal notice to disperse was issued and an email was sent to staff and students

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