Oxford University: 16 pro-Palestine protesters arrested by police

Demonstrators attempt to block access as officers move in on administrative building

Pro-Palestine protesters gather outside the University of Oxford. Reuters
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Police arrested 16 pro-Palestine protesters after they entered a building at the University of Oxford on Thursday.

Members of Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) entered the administrative building on Wellington Square at 8am, demanding that the university divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Demonstrators wrote “we are in lockdown – no access” on a piece of paper outside the building and refused to leave.

Images posted on social media showed police move into the area and remove several people, including one person who was carried on a stretcher.

Thames Valley Police later said 16 people were arrested for aggravated trespass, with one also arrested on suspicion of common assault.

In a statement, it said officers used "lawful, proportionate and necessary action in the difficult circumstances they faced".

"Elements of this protest sought to obstruct the removal of the persons arrested. These protests have been peaceful and no arrests were made," police said.

At least five police vehicles were parked on Wellington Square, with another parked at the back of the building, The Telegraph reported.

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,” demonstrators chanted.

The group criticised the authorities in a post on X. “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 [through investments],” it said.

At the scene, Oxford politics student Kendall Gardner said police dragged students out of the way. “We've been met with extreme violence and hostility,” she said.

The university had no immediate comment on Thursday's events, although it previously said it respected the right to freedom of expression in the form of peaceful protests.

Britain's universities have been hit by widespread protests since the Gaza war began last October, including at Goldsmiths, University of London, the University of Cambridge and the London School of Economics.

Last week, Cambridge students departed from tradition by having their graduations at an alternative venue, due to a pro-Palestine protest camp outside the building used for ceremonies since the 18th century.

Activists pitched tents outside Senate House this week and the university said on Thursday that it had taken the “very difficult decision” to use an alternative location for Friday’s graduations. More graduation ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday.

Updated: May 23, 2024, 11:11 PM