Thursday, June 13, 2024

Oxford Police arrest students during Gaza solidarity protest

Tensions flared on the University of Oxford campus as police arrested 16 students participating in a peaceful sit-in at the Administrative Offices demanding the university cut ties with Israeli institutions over the ongoing violence in Gaza.

On the morning of May 23rd, members of the Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) coalition entered the Wellington Square Office building complex, making their way to the Vice Chancellor’s office. The students initiated a sit-in, with the intention of remaining until the university administration agreed to negotiations regarding OA4P’s demands.

According to the protesters, the Vice Chancellor falsely claimed the university was attempting to communicate through “established channels,” despite repeatedly ignoring meeting requests from OA4P representatives. The protesters maintain that when police arrived at the scene, they willingly offered to vacate the premises but were instead arrested. Their phones were confiscated, preventing them from recording the incident.

The arrests sparked outrage, with over a hundred community members mobilizing to block the exits and prevent police from leaving with the arrested students. The protesters were also denied bathroom access while inside the building.

Two days prior to the sit-in, OA4P established a second encampment on the lawn of the iconic Radcliffe Camera library, vowing to remain until the university agreed to negotiations based on their preconditions. The group highlighted the symbolic significance of the location, noting its connection to figures like Alfred Milner, the chief architect of the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

The sit-in came amidst escalating violence in Gaza, where Israel’s military offensive has forced over 800,000 people to flee the area. OA4P cited reports of widespread famine, shortages of medical care, and the discovery of mass graves in Gaza as reasons for their urgent demands.

In the weeks leading up to the sit-in, OA4P’s “Liberated Zone” encampment gained significant support from the university community. Over 2,400 students, 600 faculty and staff members, 14 local trade unions, and 200 university healthcare workers signed open letters calling on Oxford to cut ties with Israeli institutions.

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