Police issue ultimatum to student Gaza protest

Kat Wong and Bray Boland |

Students barricade the Gaza solidarity encampment at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Students barricade the Gaza solidarity encampment at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Student protesters at the Australian National University have been given an ultimatum to leave their pro-Palestine encampment or face arrest.

Campus security at the university in Canberra on Monday directed students to remove their belongings and vacate the site by noon on Tuesday, citing safety concerns.

Following the arrival of ACT Policing, protesters held a vote in which they overwhelmingly chose to continue their protest action.

“Our plan is just to stay for as long as possible until the police basically f— off,” an encampment participant said.

An ultimatum soon followed, boomed through an ACT Policing megaphone.

“You are directed to vacate this area,” an officer said.

“Non-compliance with this direction by 12pm tomorrow may result in further action by ACT police.”

The announcement was met with shouts of “shame” and “fascists” from the protesters.

A Gaza Solidarity camp at the ANU in Canberra.
A Gaza Solidarity encampment at the Australian National University in Canberra. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

University management has told protesters that, if they wish to continue their demonstrations, they must relocate to a different part of the campus in front of the engineering building.

On Monday morning students chanted at campus management staff and asked supporters from the community to join them and protect the camp.

Roughly 100 people responded to the call by linking arms around the perimeter and chanting for a free Palestine.

ACT Policing’s negotiation team met with students in an attempt to encourage them to leave, but it is unclear how discussions progressed.

“We are still in an observational capacity at the moment,” a police spokesman told AAP.

Asked if any arrests would be made, he said it “depends what happens”.

Protesters sit in a line with arms linked.
The protesters are demanding the ANU cut academic ties with Israel. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

The escalation in the protest comes after students at the University of Melbourne and Curtin University in Western Australia packed up their own pro-Palestine encampments, citing a shift by the institutions on demands to publicly disclose ties with weapons makers.

The protests emulate demonstrations in the United States, where students were forced to dismantle their encampments after clashing with police.

The Australian National University maintains it has never directed its students to stop protesting, but that the encampment is posing safety issues.

It is located in a heavily populated part of the university that also acts as a primary emergency evacuation site.

The university said the alternate assembly area failed during an evacuation on Wednesday, posing an “intolerable risk to students, staff and wider public”.

“Everyone at ANU shares the same sense of responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of our community,” the university statement said.

The ANU encampment is demanding the university cut ties with weapons manufacturing companies, disclose and divest from all entities complicit in the “genocide in Gaza”, and cut academic ties with Israel.

Students say the university’s administration has refused to meet with students or their mediation team.

“It is clear that the ANU is not interested in engaging in good faith with peaceful student protesters on the right side of history,” they said in a statement.

On October 7, designated terrorist group Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1200 people and taking more than 200 hostages, according to Tel Aviv.

Israel retaliated, launching a bombing campaign and counter-offensive in Gaza that, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, injured more than 80,000 and displaced more than 1.7 million.

AAP