Banners in LU's Margaret Fell building protesting the university's arms trade
Students occupy Lancaster University in protest of its involvement in the arms trade


The Margaret Fell building, which holds the largest lecture theatre on campus, was occupied on Thursday (15th December) by Lancaster students demanding the university cut ties with arms companies and actively support the UCU’s demands.

The protest comes after Lancaster University announced in 2021 that they would be screening out arms trade investments.

But in the same year, they also announced they would be joining Cumbria University in opening a new campus for college students in Barrow-in-Furness, working closely with BAE systems, Europe’s largest arms manufacturer.

Earlier this year, Lancaster University agreed to share research with BAE systems. On this, one protester said: ““The University is clearly aware of how immoral and unjustifiable the arms trade is, which is why they have announced they are divesting from arms companies.

“To then be expanding their relationships with these same companies in spite of their divestment, is completely two-faced and hypocritical.

“The University must sever all ties, not just investment.”

In the last five years, BAE systems has sold £15 billion worth of weapons and services to Saudi Arabia. These have been crucial to their attacks in the war in Yemen, which has killed thousands of people, displaced thousands of families, and destroyed their economic structures. It is a war the UN have described as “the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.”

BAE systems also works with Lockheed Martin to produce the American F-35 stealth combat aircrafts that are used by the Israeli military against civilians in Palestine.

The occupation of the Margaret Fell building is just one in a wave of protests happening across UK universities. In October, protesters occupied University of Sheffield’s flagship engineering building to demand they too cut ties with arms companies.

Careers fairs at the Universities of Warwick, Leeds, Nottingham, and Bristol have also been disrupted.

Lancaster’s students are also standing in support with staff, and calling on the university to support the demands of the University and College Union (UCU). The UCU is currently in a national dispute over pay, conditions, student experience, and job security.

Demilitarise Lancaster, the group claiming responsibility for this disruptive action, are following in the footsteps of countless other campaigns hoping to sever the university’s ties with arms companies.

Previous action includes disrupting both a careers fair, and a BAE Systems workshop. Earlier this month, they organised multiple demonstrations, public events, and disrupted a talk by Forsberg, a local company that develops navigational technology for the British Army.

One of the occupiers said: “We feel like we have no choice but to take this direct action, given the scale of the University’s complicity [in] war crimes.

“As students of the university, we have a responsibility to fight for an institution where staff and students are treated with dignity, and where our tuition fees are not used to uphold the oppressive system of violent, global imperialism.”

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