Archive

Posts Tagged ‘occupation’

Reflections on how we ran the negotiations with uni management during Free Hetherington occupation

March 30, 2015 Leave a comment

I just wrote this as a response to someone asking for advice on running negotiations during university occupations. Posting it here for other’s information, and as a personal thing for re-reflecting on later. I possibly will expand on it later.

***

So I’m just one of the people that was involved in the occupation. There were some internal divisions about how to handle the negotiations and I was deeply on one side of the debate. Just to let you know that this is not a neutral response!

For most of the negotiations we insisted, and won, full representation by all the occupiers when meeting with the uni managements. this felt powerful and i feel was when we were at our most successful in gaining concessions. For example it was directly after a mass meeting with them, during which you could visibly see them realising how strong and united we were, that they agreed to let us have the Hetherington back, after forcibly evicting us that day. We had responded to the eviction by occupying their management suite and so we were in a position of some strength. However this was not an isolated incident of us gaining concessions and being empowered by our insistence on mass meetings. Gaining that as an initial demand gave us strength for our actual negotiations. It also gave us directly moral courage during the meetings, versus smaller meetings (I was involved with a couple before we began insisting that they meet with all of us, or none) where they could use personal manipulation and wear us down.

Towards the end, we (democratically decided by a vote, but i opposed at the time and still think was a mistake) agreed to the management’s demands that we choose a small team (4-6 – I refused to be a part of it) who would meet directly with management and negotiate.

Those negotiations ended up with very wooly sounding agreements. These were, again democratically by vote, agreed upon, but most of those agreeing were burnt out by the long occupation and “would have agreed to a cup of tea if it meant we could move on”

These agreements are posted on our wordpress somewhere. They were not kept to by management, but obviously after the occupation had ended we were in no position to force them to keep their word :(

Advertisements

On the 9th anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death in Gaza

March 16, 2012 5 comments

Nine years ago today a small group of us spent several hours using our bodies to non violently defend family homes in Rafah, Gaza, from Israeli bulldozers. And then one of those bulldozers just kept on going, crushing Rachel Corrie, 23, beneath it; she died within an hour.

Rachel wasn’t fearless – I remember one day when we were standing as human shields as municipal construction workers were rebuilding a well that had been destroyed by the IDF (Israeli army) seriously compromising the Rafah water supply. We were there every day over several weeks as the work was carried out, and while mostly this was incredibly boring (ever hung out at a construction site?) at times it was terrifying as snipers would shoot towards us. Because we were clearly identified as internationals and were standing between an IDF watchtower and the workers, these were warning shots; on other occasions municipal workers had been killed by IDF snipers hence our presence. I imagine that the IDF soldiers are pretty bored too. They’ve been subjected to years of propaganda dehumanising Palestinians and this together with the sure knowledge that they can get away with it means that putting a rifle into the hands of an 18 year old kid is a recipe for such killings.

Well one day the watchtower snipers started up, but didn’t just shoot their normal couple of shots, but kept going. We had our banner declaring in English, Arabic and Hebrew something about us being internationals and Rachel used the megaphone to shout over and over again in the direction of the shooting that we were international human rights volunteers and to please stop shooting at us; we never knew if they could hear us or not. The shots were whistling past our ears. Sometimes they hit the ground just in front of our feet sending up bits of rock. Rachel’s voice was getting increasingly shakey. I was trying to work out how accurate a sniper could be at that distance – they were clearly trying to scare us as the shots got closer and closer and I know that they can shoot killshots at that range, but supposing the wind suddenly changed? The distinctive crack meant it was high velocity bullets whistling past so surely they wouldn’t be affected by wind? But supposing one of the soldiers did slip, or just thought “screw it” – our lives were in their hands. We were all terrified. Rachel would pause and we would talk about how we wished we had a cigarette and that we could leave and try and cheer each other up. Finally, approximately 40-60 minutes later, the shooting stopped and we went to a nearby friend’s flat for a very shakey cup of sweet tea with maramiya (sage).

The wells were rebuilt; infrastructure is repairable, unlike destroyed lives. And there have been so many lives destroyed by the occupation. Thousands and thousands of Palestinians killed. Millions of children growing up in traumatising environments in Gaza and the West Bank* A 27 year old friend in Rafah has lost dozens of friends over the years to IDF bullets. These are not necessarily fighters; they could have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like the street cleaner who was shot from a watchtower while smoking outside his house about an hour after Rachel died. We visited his family; apparently he had learning difficulties and still lived with his parents, and had no relationship with politics. And like so many other Palestinian deaths there has been nothing about him in the news, no accountability from the IDF, just another senseless murder in Gaza.

This post is a bit rambly, and that would probably have been a good place to end it, but I want to talk a bit more about Rachel. I only met her 6 weeks before she was killed, and got to know her a lot better after she was killed through reading her emails and other writing, and spending time with her family. To be honest I don’t know if we’d have been close friends if we’d just met normally. She had a very quirky sense of humour that didn’t match mine. I doubt very much that given a choice, it would have been my arms that she would have died in. But I did have that role, I stroked her hair and told her that she was loved as her body shut down.

I wish I had been closer to her, because from her writing an intelligent, compassionate and complex figure emerges. Within a short time she was aware of the complexity, the nuance, the conflicts of the situation. I’m going to stop with some of Rachel’s words. Please do as she did, and put the humanity back into how you think about other people. We are all individuals, with families, hopes, dreams, loves, fears, background contexts that affect our trajectories, and the ability to do amazing things in the world.

“we are all kids curious about other kids. Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what’s going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously – occasionally shouting and also occasionally waving – many forced to be here, many just agressive – shooting into the houses as we wander away.” (Rachel Corrie, February 7 2003, accessible at http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/rachel/emails)

 

EDITED TO ADD : We’re having an event in Glasgow tonight to celebrate Rachel’s life. Its at Glas Uni but you don’t have to be a student to come :
Boyd Orr. Lecture Theatre E.
University Avenue just up from Byres Rd.
http://www.facebook.com/events/314851021908411/

* I will write about the effect that the occupation is having on Israelis soon. I absolutely condemn all civilian killings.

Day 4 of the Free Hetherington

February 5, 2011 1 comment

So we’ve been occupying the former postgrad club at Glasgow University since Tuesday.  I just want to record how I’m feeling now about it, mostly for my own future reference!  For more details on the occupation try http://www.facebook.com/pages/Glasgow-Uni-Occupied/133691460021139

Read more…