Demonstration or discussion meeting? New rules for protests on campus create ambiguity

10 Jun 2024

The new measures regarding protests on campus are causing noticeable confusion among security and police. This was evident this afternoon during a brief gathering of pro-Palestine protestors in the Erasmus building.

The mayor of Nijmegen was very clear in his decision last weekend: Protesting is only allowed in car park P7 on the Heyendaalseweg next to the sports centre, and only between 08:00 and 20:00 o’clock. So: there will be no new encampments, and certainly no barricades or occupations.

Reason enough for the activists to change course today, right after the new rules went into effect. No sit-ins, protest marches, or occupations. Instead, they are holding a discussion meeting on the right to protest.

No disrupting exams

Location: Study room 2.51 in the Erasmus Building. ‘The room was empty,’ says spokesperson Ties. ‘We deliberately took into account that we wouldn’t disrupt exams. We wouldn’t want that ourselves, of course.’

During the discussion, it appeared that the new rules still raised some questions among the security guards, as well as among the police officers who arrived later. The meeting attracted mainly students and some staff members, as well as about ten journalists. Those present were soon told by security that they had to identify themselves with a student ID. After a few refusals, security discussed matters with spokesperson Ties in the corridor.

‘We really are here to discuss with each other’

Ties informed them that this is purely an educational discussion, and that the students will leave the classroom again at 13:30. ‘No further actions or protests are planned,’ he says. Meanwhile, students entered and exited the classroom. A few covered their faces when a photographer reached for a camera. But otherwise, no face-covering clothing is seen. No large Palestine flags or banners today either – and certainly no graffiti. ‘We really are here to discuss with each other,’ says Ties.

Security talked among themselves, with officers joining them a little later. There appears to be a lot of confusion about what is and is not allowed according to the new rules. This afternoon’s discussion was not requested in advance by the students and because people from outside the university are also present, it is not allowed, according to a security guard. But these are students forming a discussion group; that is the purpose of a university, the protesters reply.

Journalist or troublemaker

Distrust towards those present at the discussion meeting is also quite noticeable. For instance, a security guard tells a policeman that she does not trust a journalist from De Gelderlander without a press pass. She had seen him walking ‘among the ringleaders’ just last week during the occupation of Thomas van Aquinostraat 1. The policeman says he recognizes the boy as a journalist from earlier; the press pass hanging round his neck moments later is a welcome clarification.

However, at 13:25, five minutes before the end of the discussion, security and police still intervene. They indicate that anyone without a student ID is not welcome in the study area. Journalists were also asked to leave. Those who do start a discussion end up being addressed in an intimidating tone by an officer present. ‘Are you really going to drag journalists out of the room?’, spokesperson Ties wonders aloud.

‘Such spaces are not meant for other purposes, such as a meeting, when not scheduled’

Once the media present were waiting around the corner, security guards blocked off part of the corridor. Only people in possession of a Radboud pass – employee or student – are allowed past it. After a roughly 15-minute break, the protestors continue their discussion. Around 14:00, the largest group leaves the room, with a handful remaining behind to study.

The fact that people without a Radboud pass had to leave the room is because the rooms are meant for teaching activities or study purposes. This was made clear by a spokesperson for the university. ‘Think of studying for exams or collaborating on study-related assignments. These rooms are not meant for other purposes, such as a meeting, when it is not scheduled. In this case, the room was not booked, which is why student cards were asked for.’

When asked why the press was also turned away today, unlike during previous actions by the protest group, the spokesperson could not yet give an explicit answer this afternoon.

Translated by Lieke Stevens

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