The walkout and rally came as negotiations began earlier this week between encampment representatives and the UniversityChristopher Lorde for Varsity

Workers from Lion’s Yard and the Grand Arcade staged a walkout yesterday (23/05), in solidarity with the Cambridge for Palestine (C4P) encampment.

The walkout was held at 5:30pm yesterday, as workers left their posts before the shopping centres’ closing times of 6pm.

Over a hundred protesters then marched from the Grand Arcade towards Great St Mary’s Church, before staging a rally outside Senate House.

After the rally, a pro-Palestine assembly was held at Wesley Methodist Church. Speakers included Dr Kareem Estefan, Assistant Professor of Film and Screen Studies, Louise Regan, a representative from the National Education Union, and representatives from Cambridge Jews for Justice in Palestine.

The walkout and rally come after negotiations began earlier this week between encampment representatives and the University. The pro-vice-chancellors, chief financial officer and head of public international partnerships attended a meeting with C4P on Wednesday, Varsity understands.

The University insists that these meetings are “constructive dialogues,” rather than negotiations, as they have been described by the group.

Cambridge for Palestine is demanding that the University discloses its ties to companies involved in Israel’s military operations in Gaza, and then severs those links.

The C4P encampment has been in place outside King’s College since the beginning of this month. Last week, students set up a second camp outside Senate House, which was dismantled days later after the University agreed to negotiations.

At yesterday’s rally, one organiser alleged that during negotiations, the University had told the encampment spokespeople that they “weren’t representative” of the Cambridge student community.

Yesterday (23/05) 16 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested at Oxford University after starting a sit-in at university offices. A heightened police presence was visible throughout the rally.

Organisers at the Cambridge rally expressed “solidarity with our comrades at Oxford University,” while the crowd chanted “more than 40,000 dead, Oxford arrests students instead”.

As the encampment at Cambridge enters its third week, some backlash has developed against the protesters. On Wednesday (22/05), an open letter was circulated in opposition to the camp, accusing protesters of contributing to a “decline in respect, understanding, empathy and good neighbourliness” in the Cambridge community.

The letter has been condemned by C4P, who told Varsity that “the real decline in empathy can be seen in our University’s continuous complicity in ongoing genocide”.

The letter also alleged that rallies by the encampment movements have utilised “rhetoric” that “impinges on the welfare of countless in our community”.


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In response to these claims, Professor Bhaskar Vira, pro-vice-chancellor for education told Varsity: “We have consistently asked members of our community to treat each other with understanding and empathy. The protests have so far been peaceful, but we retain the right to intervene and have made our guidelines clear to the protestors.”

Regarding negotiations with the C4P, Professor Vira told Varsity: “We were glad to meet our students as we have been willing to do from the first day of the protest. While we understand some will see it as a negotiation, we see it as a constructive dialogue with our students.”

Of the open letter against the encampment, a University spokesperson said: “Our priority is the safety of all our students and staff. We are in regular contact with our Jewish students and chaplains, assuring them of our support and that we will not tolerate antisemitism.”

“The protests have so far been peaceful, but we retain the right to intervene and have made our guidelines clear to the protesters. […] We support academic freedom, freedom of speech and the right to protest, all within the law, and we regularly take legal advice and liaise with police,” they added.

The Grand Arcade was contacted for comment.