Uni of Western Sydney students defend their right to protest

May 18, 2024
WSU management threatened to call police on pro-Palestine students, prompting them to declare they were all organisers. Photo: WSU4Palestine

A powerful student-led rally on May 13 at Western Sydney University’s (WSU) Parramatta South campus called for an end to Israel’s genocide in Palestine.

Speakers were Palestinian, Lebanese and Jewish students and staff. The rally also called for WSU to divest and cut its ties with weapons manufacturers, which include Thales, BAE Systems and RTX (Raytheon).

During the rally, management threatened to call police on students and staff and demanded that the chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, not be used.

Subsequent threats were made by the University’s Vice President Bill Parasiris to suspend a law student and remove from the campus.

The student was singled out as an organiser, which led to the crowd chanting “We are all organisers”.

WSU representatives were unable to reference a relevant policy to back up their threats.

Singling out a student, in the context of a student rally supporting Palestine, may contravene anti-discrimination laws covering WSU. It also potentially breaches the Racial Discrimination Act, based on the student’s religious identity.

This is happening as WSU is increasingly threatening free speech on campus.

On May 9, on the Parramatta South campus, security was sent to stop students chalking up calls for the liberation of Palestine.

This follows efforts by the Building Manager and security personnel at Bankstown campus to ban staff and students from handing out fliers supporting Palestinians.

Lobbying of the university has led management to ban calls for Palestinian liberation. Recently, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese claimed that “From the river to the sea” is "violent".

WSU’s Chancellor Jennifer Westacott was featured in The Australian arguing that antisemitism is rife on university campuses, citing the “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” chant as evidence.

WSU management’s efforts to squash Pro-Palestinian advocacy will not succeed.

[Western Sydney University 4 Palestine, is a staff and student collective, calling for a ceasefire on occupied Palestinian lands. We are calling for the University to divest from companies profiting from the genocide in Gaza and from Israeli settler colonialism in Palestine. Sign the open letter calling for the University to divest here. Email wsu4palestine@gmail.com to get involved.]

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