“Hugely demoralising”: Students fight to retrieve belongings after University of Sydney clears out encampments

“Hugely demoralising”: Students fight to retrieve belongings after University of Sydney clears out encampments
Image: Encampments at the University of Sydney have been cleared out by security. Image: Supplied

Students are fighting to get their belongings back after the University of Sydney cleared out the pro-Palestinian encampments on the front lawns.

Following a series of unsuccessful negotiations, the university ordered the encampments to leave on Friday, and began removing personal belongings and taking down tents in the morning.

“For some weeks we have tried to negotiate with encampment representatives to come to a peaceful resolution,” the university said in a statement.

“The front lawns are a shared space, and as we have said previously, our shared spaces should be welcoming and inclusive to all members of our community. Since 24 April, the encampment has taken over this shared space to the exclusion of others,” the statement continues.

“Unnecessarily bureaucratic” 

When security guards arrived on Friday morning and began clearing the tents, including ones that were occupied, students were refused to retrieve their belongings from the trucks present.

Some items that were taken were valuable belongings such as laptops and chargers, as well as clothes and mattresses.

They were then instructed to retrieve their items from lost property, which means launching an online ticket in a process that a student representative has described as “unnecessarily bureaucratic”.

Ethan Floyd from the SRC, who has been at the encampment for 55 days, told City Hub that students can’t get their belongings back because “they’ve been gummed up with this bureaucratic system of retrieving the lost property, which creates a huge amount of workload for university staff.”

“It means there’s going to be major delays for students getting their belongings back.”

He added that recent events have been “hugely demoralising”.

“We all knew there was a time bomb hanging over us and that it would have to end at some point. We were expecting it to be at the end of this week, but the university has scheduled quite a bit ahead.”

The university’s rationale is allegedly to rehabilitate the grass in time for Welcome Week, which takes place between July 15 and August 2.

Encampments’ demands to divest 

The encampments’ key demands have been for the university to annually disclose their investments and partnerships with Israeli companies and institutions, and for the university to cut ties with known companies and institutions, such as Thales Australia, Elbit Systems, Tel Aviv University, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The protestors’ received two offers from the university, both promising a working group to review their investments and academic partnerships, as well as establishing scholarships for students fleeing Gaza, but without a commitment to divestment.

“Though we rejected both deals on the grounds that they failed to meet the substantive part of our demands, the details of both offers were published by the university and we intend to publicly pressure them to follow through on those commitments,” Ethan told City Hub. 

“One of the reasons we refused to sign is because any deal from the university was contingent on indefinite decampment,” he continued. “This would demobilise our long-term campaign for divestment.”

As of today, City Hub understands that the front lawns at the University of Sydney have been totally cleared out for the exception of some tents belonging to the Muslim Society.

Security has since erected bollards and traffic control signs around the campus that cite the Inclosed Lands Act 1901 and gave a directive to leave, informing the protestors that anyone who remained after being asked to leave by security would be charged.

Security at the front lawns at the University of Sydney. Image: Supplied

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