British Colleges Are Handling Protests Differently. Will It Pay Off?

Palestinian flags fluttered in the breeze above two neat rows of orange and green tents at Cambridge University on Thursday, where students read, talked and played chess at a small encampment to protest the Gaza war.

There were no police officers in sight and not a lot for them to do if they did turn up, unless they felt like joining a wellness circle or a workshop on kite-making.

Pro-Palestinian encampments have spread to 15 universities across Britain in recent days, but there were few signs yet of the violent confrontations that have shaken American campuses.

Kendall Gardner of Indiana, an Oxford student, with other demonstrators on Thursday. “My Judaism is so much part of why I am an activist,” she said.

That is partly because college authorities here are adopting a more permissive approach, citing the importance of protecting free speech, even if the government is not entirely thrilledabout the protests. It may also reflect the less polarized debate within Britain, where polls suggest the majority of people believe Israel should call a cease-fire.

At Oxford University, the vibe was more campsite than confrontation, with around 50 tents pitched on a prominent green lawn outside the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Back to top button