1 May in Manchester: Action for Gaza!

Ian Parker reports from the encampment at the University of Manchester.


Today our 1 May has seen action for Gaza. This morning Palestine Action targeted the Manchester offices of BNY Mellon and Barclays, companies complicit in the Gaza genocide. These banks invest in Israel’s biggest weapons manufacturer, Elbit. Once activists shattered glass, they sprayed the inside with red paint, which symbolised the banks’ complicity in Palestinian bloodshed. You can see a video of the action here.

This afternoon, students from University of Manchester set up an encampment to draw attention to the ongoing research links with the Israeli state, state institutions that, as Maya Wind has shown in her book Towers of Ivory and Steel, include Israeli universities. Manchester students now join their comrades in taking action and setting up encampments at over 120 universities world-wide.

Manchester University encampment banner
Manchester University encampment banner

Student demands

The students say “As the genocide in Gaza continues relentlessly, and following the recent wave of student escalation across the world against their complicit institutions, students at UoM have launched the ‘Manchester Resistance Camp for Palestine’, and are committed to pressure UoM to cut its deadly ties with Zionist entities and weapons manufacturers. The demands from Uni are: End its partnership with BAE Systems; End ties with Tel Aviv University and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Adopt a policy ensuring all research is ethical and does not contribute towards the arms trade; and Refrain from taking any disciplinary action against students.” Students have been actively supported by the local UCU branch, which was present in solidarity as the encampment was being set up.

UCU at University of Manchester showing support for the encampment
UCU at University of Manchester showing support for the encampment

The complicity of the University of Manchester with apartheid and genocide is well put in an article in Mondoweiss, arguing that “For the University of Manchester, neutrality takes the form of extensive ties with companies and institutions directly complicit in the genocide of Palestinians. This includes a £822,000 contract with BAE Systems, the company producing around 15% of each of the F-35 fighter jets currently bombing homes, schools, and hospitals in Gaza, and an ongoing research collaboration with Tel Aviv University, creator of the Dahiya doctrine of “disproportionate force” against civilian targets.”

Feminists in the forefront of action

Impressive in the previous occupations and guest speaker events, one of which had Maya Wind launching her book here at an event co-organised with UCU, has been the presence of women taking the lead. Alison Treacher spoke for the Manchester Feminist Coalition to a student mobilisation ahead of the setting up of the encampment today. We reprint her speech here: 

“Firstly thank you for asking me to speak; and happy International Workers Day, a day where we celebrate our power as workers, celebrate the achievements of our class, recognise the importance of our struggle, look to the future, and the potential of the world we have to win.

Today I am speaking to you as a member of the Manchester Feminist Coalition. A network of women, girls and queer people determined to amplify the true meaning of feminism, that of intersectional revolutionary power and international solidarity. From Manchester, to Palestine, to Sudan, to Iran, we commit to build power and solidarity in our communities, workplaces and on the streets. Join us.

I am trade union activist, previously and officer and branch secretary representing charity workers in the North West. For 15 years I worked in social care, an arena of work where women, queer people and migrant workers are over represented. During the pandemic I set up a cross union, rank and file network of care and support workers striving for visibility, fair pay, safe working conditions and a nationalised social care system which dismantles the inherent power dynamics ensuring voice and power for disabled people and those who require support service. On International Workers Day we remember we are whole workers, and whilst fighting for good terms and conditions in the workplace is vital, our workplaces victories must be translated into the society in which we seek to build. A union is not only an organisational structure, it is a coming together of workers fighting for justice – economic justice, social justice, environmental justice and international peace.

This year marks forty years on from the miners’ strike, a struggle which evokes the sense of pride in the resistance of working class communities across Britain, however this pride is also coupled with deep seated disempowerment and the reality that the prevailing political ideology of the time, neoliberalism, which is so opposed to workers liberation and a just and fair society, eventually won out – and we still feel the ramifications of that loss today.

I don’t want to stand here and romanticise the struggles to the past, as to do this diminishes the work that needs to be done to realise the world we strive for. It would be a lie to say 40 years ago that there weren’t workers on picket lines harbouring homophobic and transphobic views, or views moulded by male supremacy which disregarded the additional social reproductive labour that women undertake. However to overcome these reactionary views we must demand our visibility, rigorously challenge, educate each other, be present and offer unwavering solidarity until our differences become assets and our struggle for liberation for all becomes our everything.

Join a union, take the fight to the streets, challenge in good faith and let’s realise the world free from oppression and exploitation.”

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Ian Parker is a Manchester-based psychoanalyst and a member of Anti*Capitalist Resistance.

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