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Vic premier ‘fed up’ with university encampments

Pro-Palestine occupations at the University of Melbourne are set to be packed up.

Pro-Palestine occupations at the University of Melbourne are set to be packed up. Photo: AAP

“Fed up” Victorian premier Jacinta Allan is calling for pro-Palestine protesters occupying universities to leave, as the state’s police union warns moving in on the encampments is a no-win situation.

The demonstrators had overstayed their welcome and were disrupting students’ education, Allan said on Tuesday.

“We have reached a point where many Victorians are frustrated, are fed up with some of the reckless behaviour we’ve seen. I know I certainly am,” she told reporters.

Allan defended the right to peaceful protest but drew the line at violence from some.

“We should not be seeing violence overseas bring violence to the streets of Melbourne, violence overseas bring violence to our university campuses,” she said.

“What we need to see is this reckless behaviour come to an end. Let those students who want to get back to learning, get back to learning.”

Pro-Palestine students at the University of Melbourne have occupied the Arts West building for a week, leading to the cancellation or rescheduling of more than 600 classes and disrupting more than 16,800 students, according to vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell.

“The university remains concerned and disappointed to see the refusal to leave the Arts West building on our Parkville campus,” he said in a statement.

Professor Maskell told protesters on Monday the demonstration had become “increasingly disruptive and unsafe” and directed them to vacate the building.

Students and staff contravening the order were threatened with academic sanctions, including expulsion and may be referred to police for trespassing.

Police can only get involved when the university revokes someone’s right to be on campus.

Officers have been involved in background negotiations to end the sit-ins peacefully but would be forced to move in if that is unsuccessful, the police association said.

“The only losers out of that will be police because no matter what decision they take, they are going to have made the wrong one,” union secretary Wayne Gatt told 3AW.

“If they use force, they’ll have been said to have used too much. If they don’t, they’ll have been said to have stood back and watched too long.

“It’s a no-win situation we can all see coming for coppers.”

Monash University protesters, whose encampment has ended, were to rally at the Clayton campus on Tuesday afternoon in support of nine students facing suspension or expulsion for protesting for Gaza.

They claimed their camp was “forcefully dismantled” on Friday but the university said organisers had planned to pack up.

La Trobe University has started misconduct proceedings against students who have failed to comply with an order to move on.

Meanwhile, organisers of a pro-Israel camp at the University of Queensland voluntarily disbanded on Saturday after the university asked for all camps to be removed but a pro-Palestine camp remains.

Police on Monday charged two 53-year-old men with high-risk activity after officers responding to calls of “political disturbance” found the pair on a university building roof.

University of Sydney vice-chancellor Mark Scott has apologised to students and staff who felt unsafe around the encampments there but stopped short of ordering them to disband to avoid escalating violence.

– AAP

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