University Post
University of Copenhagen
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Students occupy University of Copenhagen campus with tents, slogans

Report — About 100 protesters have set up camp at the University of Copenhagen Monday demanding that it change its Israel policy. The University has accepted the presence of the camp, but refuses to give in to the protesters' demands.

»When the University of Copenhagen supports Netanyahu’s genocide, we must take to the streets. This will not be in our name.«

The chants echo back and forth between the brick buildings in the courtyard of the CSS, City Campus, University of Copenhagen (UCPH), as Students Against the Occupation march through what used to be the old municipal hospital site. About a hundred people have turned up, and with their banners, Palestine flags, and partisan scarves, they cause a bit of a stir among passing economics students who are down in the yard to refuel with coffee.

The demonstration does a round of the campus and ends in what is called the secret garden, a grassy area facing Bartholinsgade street. Here, a peaceful version of the scenes that have been happening at US universities for weeks, unfolds. With tents and sleeping mats, it is not long before protesters have taken over the garden and set up their protest camp.

While some are still struggling with their tents, some of those in attendance start to congregate around Emil Nielsen. He is a member of the Students against the Occupation group. He holds forth on how »the University of Copenhagen must stop its investments in the ongoing genocide in Gaza and the occupation of Palestine.«

READ ALSO: 2,000 students want to force the University of Copenhagen to sell off West Bank investments

Peaceful civil disobedience

After his speech, the University Post caught up with him for a chat about why tents are the best way to get the University of Copenhagen talking.

»It is the culmination of a long process where we have tried to get UCPH to listen through the official channels. But we keep on being ignored,« he says and continues:

»Now we want to follow in the wake of the international momentum and choose to call out the university in the same way as we see in the US and elsewhere in Europe. The protest is a way of showing that it is our university. It does not belong to some distant board, which makes choices that we do not agree with and that indirectly involves us in genocide.«

How long do you intend to stay?

»Until our demands have been met. So hopefully not for so long. But we’ll stay here as long as it takes.«

Students against the Occupation demand that the University of Copenhagen condemns »the ongoing genocide« and calls for a ceasefire. At the same time, they want the UCPH to withdraw its investments from the occupied territories of Palestine, just as the protesters demand an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

READ ALSO: Students after University of Copenhagen opts to continue Israel investments: »A huge nothing burger«

Are you going to barricade the university, as we have seen in the United States?

»There are no plans for that. This is peaceful civil disobedience. The camp is a democratic area, so of course I cannot comment on all the decisions that are made, but we have no plans to do so,« Emil Nielsen says.

Youth rebellion of our generation

As the afternoon progresses, more and more people join in. Two protesters embrace each other.

»Going to the camp?«

»Yes, of course. This is the youth rebellion of our generation.«

The University Post walks through the tent site and tries to talk to protesters about why they have turned up. This proves, however, to be challenging. The participants have been repeatedly told to not speak to the press. All media contact has to take place through the ‘strategy group’. In the end, we manage to get two campers to talk.

One is Alexandra, who is a student of Natural Resources, the other is Andreas, a student of Balkan Studies. Both are from the University of Copenhagen. They do not want their surnames published, but the University Post is aware of their full names.

READ ALSO: Academic complicity in times of mass murder

They have turned up because they think it is time for the Palestine protests to take an extra step.

»It cannot be right that our own university should be complicit in genocide,« Alexandra says, referring to the UCPH Israeli investments.

»It is therefore gratifying to see that students now stand up and say no to UCPH.«

Andreas nods, but adds that it should not only be a protest among university students. It should be more widely rooted among the general public.

»Now we’ve seen many thousands on the streets, but it’s like it hasn’t really moved anything. So now we hope that this protest can be the start of a larger movement,« he says.

They both have tents with them and are ready to stay on campus for »as long as it takes«.

Tolerated by management

On the edge of the garden, Rune Heiberg Hansen is standing there watching it all play out. He is faculty director at the Faculty of Social Sciences and had not been informed about today’s action.

»We have not entered into any agreements with the protesters, but we are giving everyone the freedom to be here, as long as teaching and research are not disturbed,« he says.

Later in the afternoon, there is an official announcement from the University of Copenhagen on the social media X. It states that the protesters are allowed to be there, provided that they do not disturb the operations of the university. But UCPH will not meet their demands:

»The University of Copenhagen’s researchers have freedom of research and decide who they are collaborating with under guidelines laid down by the government,« writes UCPH on X.

»The University of Copenhagen’s ethical investment policy is laid down in a recent discussion in the Board, and we follow ten conventions based on, and including, the UN and the OECD.«