Brightly coloured banners adorn the Omnia railing. A portable speaker blasts music reminiscent of reggae: ‘Shell must fall, oh Shell must fall, climate crimes around the world, oh Shell must fall’. Students armed with mini-posters and pamphlets stand ready. There is another protest on the campus.
The banners flying in the tropical heat on Omnia’s platform are the same as the ones used during the occupation of Forum earlier this year. This time, the protesting students take advantage of the opening of the new academic year (OAY) to underscore that they expect WUR to take action on three issues: severing ties with the fossil industry, decolonising education and more democratic university leadership without corporate brass in the supervisory board.
Protestors distribute bright red pamphlets about the ‘decarbonise, decolonise and democratise’ demands at the top of the stairs. Most visitors, from the mayor of Wageningen and other dignitaries to professors, accept the flyer willingly. A good read while waiting in line to enter. A QR-code scan and bag search are required for entry into Omnia.
Meanwhile, protestor June grabs a microphone to deliver a short speech on OAY’s theme of this year: Shaping sustainable futures. ‘But whose future is WUR so concerned about? That of the big multinationals? Or of industrial agriculture? Will it be a future with the same old white males whose portraits populate the wall of fame here? No! We want a world based on needs, not profit. That is why we occupy and protest.’
WUR allows the (informally announced) protest. The protestors are permitted to do as they want until they start taking down WUR flags in front of the building and replacing them with their own. Within seconds, the security detail strips the poles of the protesters’ flags and hoists the WUR flags once again. The protesters laugh and shrug, deeming the response rather exaggerated. ‘But hey, if this is the extent of it… WUR is currently responding much more friendly than during the occupation of Forum’, says one. ‘That was really unfriendly.’
Once all the guests have taken their seats, the OAY programme begins with addresses by, among others, Ingrid de Zwarte (‘Human action is responsible for every famine’) and Jeroen Candel (‘A sustainable food system calls for political leadership’). The protestors transform the Omnia platform into a picnic site. With a relaxed atmosphere, litres of homemade lemonade and a huge container of salad for everyone to enjoy. The scene is reminiscent of the song that blares from the speakers: ‘Good day to fight the system’.
The OAY live stream is available from Thursday on the WUR site. Another event to commemorate the opening of the academic year is to be held in the Grote Kerk in Wageningen on Wednesday evening. Registration is mandatory.