UK police arrest 16 anti-Israel protesters at ‘violent’ sit-in at Oxford University

Suspects held for aggravated trespassing; Jewish groups on campus report ‘overwhelming surge in antisemitism’ that ‘has only increased in recent weeks’

Footage posted on social media shows UK police removing anti-Israel protesters at a violent sit-in at Oxford University, May 24, 2024. (Social media/X; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

British police said they arrested 16 people on suspicion of aggravated trespass at the University of Oxford on Thursday after pro-Palestinian protesters held a sit-in against Israel at the university vice-chancellor’s office.

The Oxford Action for Palestine group (OA4P) said university authorities called the police after students began their protest at administration offices, as has happened at other campuses in Britain, the United States and elsewhere during the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

“Officers attended Wellington Square at Oxford University, at around 8 a.m. this morning following reports that protesters had gained access to a private office within one of the buildings,” Thames Valley Police said in a statement.

One of the 16 people arrested was also arrested on suspicion of common assault, police said. No arrests were made at separate protests nearby and elsewhere in the city.

“This was not a peaceful sit-in, but a violent action that included forcibly overpowering the receptionist,” the university said in a statement. “It is clear that a faction of students and faculty claiming to represent OA4P have not been interested in dialogue in good faith,” it added.

Footage posted on social media by OA4P showed altercations between officers and students sitting in the road blocking a police van which it said was carrying detainees.

“Let them go,” the demonstrators chanted.

The protesters had been calling for the university to divest from companies with ties to Israel, which is at war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip after the Palestinian terrorist group’s devastating October 7 onslaught.

“It is evident the administration would rather arrest, silence, and physically assault its own students than confront its enabling of Israel’s genocide in Gaza,” the group said on X.

Police said officers had taken “lawful, proportionate and necessary action in the difficult circumstances they faced.”

According to a Jewish student at Oxford, there has been a marked rise in antisemitic incidents since the start of the campus protest, including recent swastika graffiti and stickers with images of paragliders such as those used by Hamas along with the slogan “by any means necessary.”

“Since October 7th, we have seen an overwhelming surge in antisemitism on campus, and this has only increased in recent weeks,” said a statement from the Oxford Jewish Society and Union of Jewish Students.

“Shamefully, our experiences have been denied and invalidated by… motions accusing us of ‘weaponizing antisemitism,'” the statement added, referring to resolutions passed by various student bodies at Oxford. “Accusing minority groups of weaponizing their experiences is a stain on our campus community. Jewish students must not be left alone in the fight against antisemitism.”

In a statement on Thursday’s unrest, the Oxford Israel Society said that when the campus protest started it “warned that encampments elsewhere had led to violence and antisemitism.”

“The demands of these encampment protesters are illegitimate, and must not be surrendered to. The actions of these encampment protesters are illegal, and must not be permitted. The environment that these encampment protesters create is hostile, and must end immediately,” the group said.

A pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel camp outside the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford, in England, May 9, 2024 (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Protests against Israel have been held in universities around the world since the Israel-Hamas war was started by the terror organization’s October 7 attack, during which 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in southern Israel, and 252 were taken hostage.

The campus protests were brought back into the spotlight last month when pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel demonstrators set up an encampment on Columbia’s campus in New York City before taking control of a building on campus and occupying it. The move inspired similar protests at universities across the US as well as in Europe with thousands of demonstrators arrested in the US alone.

As a result of the protests, some universities canceled their main commencement ceremonies while those who didn’t experienced disruptions from pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesters.

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