Students for Palestine staged a rally through RMIT University’s City campus on Tuesday.
Approximately 100 students and demonstrators – chanting and waving placards – marched through Building 8 and into the cafeteria area.
The demonstrators then lay down on the ground, one protester shouting, “We are dead!”
The protesters later tried to enter the Vice Chancellor’s office, but were blocked by security and police.
Students outside the Vice Chancellor’s office. Photo by David Ross.
About 10-12 police officers followed the rally as it made its way down Swanston Street and into RMIT.
Alex Ettling, of RMIT Students for Palestine, said the rally was to highlight links between RMIT University and British Aerospace Engineering (BAE).
“BAE is one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers. Through an umbrella company they get RMIT students to do their research. This research is then on-sold to various countries, including Israel.”
The group claims this technology is used in warplanes that attack Palestinians.
“We want RMIT to sever ties with BAE. We think students should be outraged the University is putting money into weapons research,” he said.
RMIT student Tom Delbridge was in the cafeteria when the rally arrived.
“I think it’s OK”, he said, “they have a right to free speech, as do we all.”
Amber Batley, also an RMIT student, said she felt uncomfortable with so many police in attendance.
“There’s no need for so many of them,” she said.
Inspector Michael Beattie of the Victoria Police said the rally was not a security risk.
“It’s a very orderly protest, with people exercising their right to protest within the Human Rights Charter.
“We don’t see them as a risk, it’s more of an occupational health and safety issue.”
RMIT Security Manager Mark Wylie said the rally was a minor inconvenience, but they were entitled to protest.
“They’re just making a bit of noise,” he said.
Nathan Stanogias, David Ross & Andrei Ghoukassian