Protesters are occupying a University of Melbourne building.
Protesters at a university building named it Mahmoud Hall after a Palestinian who died in Gaza. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
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University arts wing ‘renamed’ after Gaza victim

Holly Hales May 16, 2024

Pro-Palestine protesters are refusing to leave a University of Melbourne building after spending the night locked in and prompting classes to be cancelled for a second day.

The group took over the Arts West building on Wednesday, dubbing it ‘Mahmoud Hall’ in honour of Mahmoud Alnaouq, a young Palestinian man killed in the Israel-Gaza war who was meant to start his studies at the university.

The activity was determined to have breached university policy and those in attendance were asked to vacate the area by 2.30pm on Wednesday, but the order was not heeded.

The Pro Palestine encampment at the University of Melbourne.
 Tents and placards at the Pro Palestine encampment at the University of Melbourne. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

Dozens of students have remained inside the precinct with pitched tents along with unfurled banners and flags.

More than 100 spent the night camped within the building.

The university later said it was concerned by the escalation and was working closely with authorities to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Signs posted on the building’s doors advised that classes in the precinct were cancelled for Thursday and alternative arrangements would be made.

Some students and tutors were frustrated when they found the building inaccessible.

One woman, who did not want to be named, said she had travelled almost an hour to campus before being told her class was cancelled.

A sign credited to Jewish students on the door of the building.
 A sign credited to Jewish students on the door of the building taken over by demonstrators. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

At Monash University, student protesters said nine organisers had been accused of misconduct and threatened with suspension or expulsion.

The students say the misconduct allegations relate to non-violently defending the pro-Palestine encampment against pro-Israel activists.

Monash University said it is investigating complaints about students’ misconduct and issued a number of formal notices.

However, encampment organiser Josiah Downey said the group has no plans to alter their protest demands.

An encampment at Deakin University at Burwood, Melbourne, was told to disband for the second time on Thursday, but students are resisting all calls to move.

Student organiser Jasmine Duff confirmed there are no plans to leave the site and said an emergency rally will be called if police or security move in.

Australian National University in Canberra has also told students to vacate the camp after it met organisers on Wednesday but the camp remains.

A Gaza Solidarity encampment at the ANU.
 A Gaza Solidarity encampment at the Australian National University in Canberra. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

Victorian health minister Mary-Anne Thomas said universities have the power to decide their response to the encampments.

“Being able to protest on campus is absolutely a fundamental right but again, when it impinges on the rights of others, that is when we have concerns,” she said.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said it is up to universities to request police action if necessary.

Many of Wednesday’s demonstrations were to mark the 76th anniversary of The Nakba, the mass displacement and dispossession of millions of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and creation of Israel.

In Canberra, Greens senator Barbara Pocock told the senate on Wednesday night “history will judge” universities’ response to the protests.

“We should not feel threatened by university students registering their moral opposition to the State of Israel’s genocide of Palestinians,” she said.

Liberal senator Sarah Henderson and Independent MP Allegra Spender have pushed for an inquiry into anti-Semitism at universities.

A dozen student encampments, with demands for universities to cut ties with Israel and associated weapons manufacturers, have cropped up at campuses across Australia.

The movement began after similar protests began in the United States last month.


* NSW: University of Sydney, University of Wollongong

* VIC: University of Melbourne, Deakin University, Monash University, RMIT University, Latrobe University

* SA: University of Adelaide

* QLD: University of Queensland

* WA: Curtin University

* TAS: University of Tasmania

* ACT: Australian National University.