This morning, 3rd April 1996, in the wake of the disasterous raid on An-Najah university last week and detentions of eighteen Birzeit students - both recent measures by the Palestinian Authority - around one thousand Birzeit students planned to demonstrate in Ramallah to protest.
The feeling on campus after the An-Najah raid, which had left several of their students injured by Palestinian Police gunfire, on top of the detention of students from all universities, was that enough was enough. Today in Ramallah, the first actual business meeting of the elected Majles Tashre'yeh Falisteeni ("Palestinian Legislative Council") was scheduled to take place and the students wanted to register their discontent.
The students had ordered buses from nearby Birzeit village but discovered that other Birzeit students - working with security agencies of the Palestinian Authority - had threatened the owners of the bus company that if the students were transported to "demonstrate against the PNA" in Ramallah they would set fire to the buses. A second attempt to hire buses from a different company also failed after a similar intervention.
After two unsuccessful attempts to hire buses, Birzeit Student Council president Ibrahim Khreishi was lifted aloft by a crowd of students who set out for Ramallah at 10:00am.
Khreishi, a longtime Fateh (Arafat's faction) activist, had organised the demonstration in coalition with the other campus factions - not to protest against the Palestinian Authority (PA), but against the recent actions of the PA. This is an important distiction to make.
The students who tried to stop him were part of the same faction - Fateh - but worked for the PA and seemed to think that this demonstration was somehow high treason. Democracy? There could have been 2,000 students or more on the demonstration, but the rather agressively drawn line between loyalty or reality made many want to keep out of what many other students concluded was to be going to be a bloodbath in Ramallah.
As the students finally set off to try to see Arafat, they faced a long march along the road from Birzeit to Ramallah (right), but kept their spirits up by chanting slogans and holding banners aloft calling for democracy.
Neither myself nor the rest of the Public Relations team knew what was going to happen and to be frank were more than a little apprehensive judging by recent events, so we decided to tag along with the students to observe and document the day's events.