On February 7th and 8th, 2023, Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, was rocked by on occupation of the primary university hall building by a large coalition of progressive students. The OCCUPY EUR movement demands that the university cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry, make the campus more accessible and tackle student debt. The development of the occupation showcases the state of the Erasmus as an institution where politics are discouraged while large companies that engage in the imperialist plunder of the global south are given free reign to conduct propaganda and recruit students for their companies.
Thus the Occupy movement resorted to militant action in defiance of the university board and their repressive countermeasures. The movement has been growing in numbers and determination since their previous occupation in January, when the board sent riot police to arrest activists after making false and empty promises about “dialogue.” This time more students flocked to the occupied hall building and unfurled banners criticizing the university board’s hypocrisy and profit-driven mindset. The movement sees itself as part of a global network of progressive student movements that confront the interests of fossil fuel companies and fight for climate justice.
Almost immediately the occupied space became a political space for young activists to expand their networks. As such the board attempted to intimidate the activists by trying to enforce demands about the course of the occupation. One such demand in clear violation of academic freedom and the right to protest was the demand to end the protest at 22:30. The students however, held their ground and awaited the police. Some chose to stay inside the building while other stood outside the entrance and held an improvised demonstration in solidarity. Even though it has been confirmed that the university board did call the police to have them arrested again, the police never showed up. As a result the occupation continued for a second day. On February 8th the board made clear that they would only discuss the demand of campus accessibility while refusing to acknowledge the other demands or even the very legitimacy of the occupation. Furthermore the right of protest was infringed again by declaring an arbitrary deadline of 19:00 to leave the building. When the deadline arrived the students exited the building with banners and chants while sending a crystal clear message: We will be back.
Samidoun Netherlands was also present at the occupation and spoke with numerous students about Palestine and the university’s ties with the Zionist entity. The overwhelming majority of the student movement expressed their clear support of Palestinian liberation from the river to the sea. Students took pictures with signs denouncing the ‘Israeli’ occupation and the university’s complicity with the occupation, including its promotion of exchange programs with Bar-Ilan University.
Samidoun supports the Occupy EUR movement and all students who wage a just struggle against criminal corporations and complicit university officials. We call on all students to recognize the struggle against the fossil fuel industry and its detrimental effect on the climate as a topic inherently interwoven with anti-imperialism and the colonization of Palestine. As Europe cuts ties with Russian gas, the fossil fuel industry is casting its greedy eyes on Palestine and its gas resources in besieged and steadfast Gaza. We will continue to support the Occupy EUR movement and their courageous efforts.