Oude Boteringestraat 23 under siege

What happened in OBS 23

‘This is an occupation, please leave’

Oude Boteringestraat 23 under siege
Two weeks ago, pro-Palestine activists occupied the UG building at Oude Boteringestraat 23. What happened inside the building? ‘The occupiers were very polite, and the police didn’t beat people for the sake of beating.’
26 June om 11:52 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 3 July 2024
om 14:19 uur.
June 26 at 11:52 AM.
Last modified on July 3, 2024
at 14:19 PM.
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Door Giulia Fabrizi

26 June om 11:52 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 3 July 2024
om 14:19 uur.
Avatar photo

By Giulia Fabrizi

June 26 at 11:52 AM.
Last modified on July 3, 2024
at 14:19 PM.
Avatar photo

Giulia Fabrizi

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‘This is an occupation, please leave’, Jason heard while someone knocked on his door. The lecturer was in his office at Oude Boteringestraat 23 (OBS 23) on a call with a colleague when the protesters entered the building.

‘I see there’s an occupation’, Jason said dryly into the phone. ‘Ah, well, good luck and have fun’, came the response from the other end.

He opened the door and saw a young person wearing a face mask. ‘I was asked to leave my office, so I grabbed my laptop and walked out.’ On the first floor, he immediately saw about five students bustling around. ‘They were knocking on doors and checking if anyone was inside. It was clear they were concerned about safety and wanted to give people inside a chance to leave.’

There was somewhat of a strategy, Jason says. But he got the impression that the protesters were mostly panicking and that they had spontaneously decided to occupy the building. ‘They were hurriedly figuring out where the exits were, what escape routes they had, and which windows and doors might be a problem for them if the police tried to come in. It seemed like an impulsive action, not something they had planned far in advance.’

They were knocking on doors and checking if anyone was inside

While the students were dragging tables and chairs, he was led to the ground floor. ‘In the hallway, I saw my colleague standing around a bit unsure what to do, so I took his arm and led him with me.’ The students discussed which exit they should take and then pointed them the way. ‘It was clearly urgent, but they were also very polite. At that moment, I still felt free in my own building.’


On the way to the exit, Jason saw the protesters – about ten, maybe a few more – setting up barricades. ‘But that wasn’t very precise or professional’, he says. ‘And they only used items they found in the building. They hardly had anything with them. No large backpacks with tools or food. I felt that this wasn’t an occupation meant to last.’

In about five minutes, Jason and his colleague were in the backyard of the building. Through the window, they saw a third colleague still sitting inside. They called out to him that he should come out too. As far as Jason knows, they were the only three staff members in the building. ‘I was kind of on edge’, he says, ‘and my colleague was a bit shaken.’ But once they were outside and the situation sank in, they could quickly put it into perspective.

‘My primary concern was for the students’, says the lecturer, who has researched activism. ‘I knew they might physically suffer here. I especially hoped that they would leave in time, before the situation escalated.’

This wasn’t an occupation meant to last

The occupation of OBS 23 on Wednesday, 12 June, was ultimately ended by the police about two hours after it began. Pro-Palestine protesters had by then been camping on the Harmonie square for 31 days, protesting the ties they claim the UG has with Israeli institutions and companies complicit in the genocide in Gaza. They demanded that the UG disclose and then sever these ties.


Unlike some other cities, the protest in Groningen had remained peaceful until then. That was also why Groningen’s mayor, Koen Schuiling, allowed the encampment. The protesters could continue to exercise their right to protest as long as it remained peaceful and did not jeopardise (traffic) safety.

On that fateful Wednesday, a demonstration was announced on Grote Markt in the city centre. Hundreds of protesters gathered around three in the afternoon in front of the town hall. From the gathering point, they walked to the nearby Herestraat. There, many demonstrators staged a ‘die-in’ – lying on the ground to draw attention to the dead in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The  protesters then walked to Oude Boteringestraat, where they gathered in front of number 23. Initially, they mostly waved flags, chanted slogans, and blocked the street and buildings.

I feel it’s a show of weakness to send the police on our students

Whether the occupation of OBS 23 was planned remains unclear. But a group of  protesters managed to enter the building. From a window on the top floor, they hung a banner with the text ‘RUG RUG you can’t hide we charge you with genocide’ and set off several smoke bombs in the colors of the Palestinian flag.


That was also when dozens of police officers arrived at Oude Boteringestraat. From the street, the police could be seen removing protesters from the front door of OBS 23. They also used batons, and in some cases, protesters were dragged away. Police dogs were also present.

Jason watched from behind a window at café Mofongo as the situation unfolded. ‘You could see that the police were very quick to respond and kept the situation under control’, he says.

‘I feel it’s a show of weakness to send the police on our students. But on the other hand, I can understand that there was a fear that damage might be done.’

Police violence

The protesters later spoke of police violence, but Jason cannot confirm that. ‘There was intimidation with dogs and some blows with a baton. But as far as I could see, there was no beating for the sake of beating’, he says. ‘The police intimidated to get people into positions so that the situation was manageable for them. They responded appropriately.’

These were not hooligans, but young people who sit in my class

He does have mixed feelings about whether the decision to call in the police should have been made so quickly. ‘Those inside were clearly students. These were not hooligans looking to cause trouble, but young people who sit in my class. I find it problematic that we are not listening to them.’

At the same time, he feels that the responsibility for what happened lies with both sides. ‘As a protester, you know what you’re getting into and what the possible consequences might be. That the police might then come and use proportional force, yes, that can be part of it if you occupy a building.’

He doubts whether the protesters’ message came across. ‘And that’s a shame. In that sense, I think this action did not create the momentum in public opinion that the protesters hoped for.’

Occupying a building, in his view, remains a democratic form of protest that students should be able to experiment with. ‘Hardly any damage was done, and my colleagues are going back to the office as normal. If our students are trying to make it clear to us in this way that we’re not listening, then maybe we should start doing so.’

Jason is a pseudonym. His real name is known to the editorial staff.