The Award Winning Ministry of Defence Exhibition 'We Were There' has become the subject of criticism and occupation by students from the Stop the War Group at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). On display at the Brunei Gallery the exhibit was a "tribute to the contribution made to our defence by military and civilian personnel from what was then the British Empire and later the Commonwealth" and won an award for Race in the Media in 2002. Launched in November 2000 the exhibition has toured the UK educating school children and visitors about the sacrifice and contribution of ethnic minorities to the British Armed Forces in over 200 years.
The group of around twenty students, who entered the gallery at 6pm on the 13th January and declared it '
occupied' 'liberated', reopened the exhibit in a rearranged format. They contended that the exhibition "ignores the reality of the ethnic minority experience within the British army".
The occupation has been followed by further occupations by students at the LSE and Essex Univeristy. The demands made by the students include a call for their institutions to condemn the Israeli militray attacks on Gaza with the tagline of 'Students in Solidarity with Gaza'.
SOAS have declared the occupation as a victory after the university management conceded to 'significant demands' including a five-year ban on military presence on campus in line with policy passed at a SOAS General Meeting. The occupiers have also negotiated free use of the gallery for the rest of the year claiming that the MoD were given the use of the exhibition space for free despite students needing to cough up over £1000 a day to use the gallery.
Imperial College Union are running a 'Peace Wall' for Israel and Gaza in the Sherfield Foyer as a collaboration between several clubs from the Social Clubs Committee and Overseas Societies Committee. The wall is an opportunity for students to come together with their messages for peace. Deputy President (Clubs and Societies), Lily Topham, expressed her concern that some of the messages such as 'Anti-Israel' are not portraying the right message for a Peace Wall but organisers are worried that censoring the wall would be a bad move. Meanwhile, there is a current movement at UCL trying to reinstate the Student Military Organisations on campus in a motion to the next UCL AGM on the 3rd February. The first attempt to overturn the ban was found to be short of quorum.