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University protests should not be shut down

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University leaders should resist calls from politicians and some lobby groups to dismantle the current anti-war protest camps set up on several campuses.

Calling in the police to stop these largely peaceful protests would go against the Australian tradition of the right to free speech, assembly and dissent. As well, it would set a dangerous precedent by allowing armed police on university campuses.

“These students are taking a stand against seven months of horrific violence in Gaza and their message should prompt us all to think about this appalling death and destruction,” said Dr Niraj Lal a spokesperson for Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR).

“There is an urgent need for people to speak out peacefully in public places because there has been a total lack of meaningful discussion of Gaza in our parliament.

Our political leaders have offered up only very weak statements about Gaza and have refused to condemn what many believe is genocide, or at the very least, mass war crimes”.

“Antisemitism is unacceptable but a small number of incidents should not be used as an excuse to halt protests altogether. Protest organisers, both Palestinian and Jewish, have denounced hate speech on numerous occasions but the media coverage has not reflected this”.

AWPR does not necessarily endorse or agree with all the aims of the current campus protests but we support the students’ right to free speech and assembly, even if that causes inconvenience to some.

“Endless ‘debates’ about what certain protest slogans actually mean are being used by some to distract from the real issue – alleged genocide and University deals with major arms manufacturers”.

University protests in Australia have a long and proud history and are often applauded in hindsight. Vice Chancellors and politicians need to keep that in mind before agreeing to kneejerk ‘crackdowns’.

-AWPR Media Release

Dr Niraj (Nij) Lal is presenter, writer and Visiting Fellow at the ANU. nirajlal.org  




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