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Students end occupation of university building
Students occupied a historic building in protest against Oxford University’s perceived pro-Israeli stance today.
The protest ended at 7pm following hours of discussion with the university proctor, although protesters had earlier claimed they were prepared to stay for weeks.
About 80 pro-Palestine protesters began their occupation of the Clarendon Building, in Broad Street, at noon.
They walked into the building and told staff they were taking over.
But it was university security staff who secured the front gates, effectively locking them in.
The protesters called on the university to meet a list of demands relating to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
They said the university should release a statement condemning the attacks on Gaza and cut its ties with arms firm BAE Systems and other companies involved in providing defence equipment to Israel. After the protest ended, spokesman Juliette Harkin said students felt the response from the university had been “satisfactory”.
They asked not to be punished for taking part in the protest.
The demonstrators also called on the master of Balliol College, Andrew Graham, to cancel the lecture series inaugurated by Israel President Shimon Peres on a visit to Oxford last November.
The students said they were prepared to occupy the listed building, part of the Bodleian Library, until their demands were met.
During the protest, Omar al-Shehabi, a 26-year-old economics student at Pembroke College, said protesters wouldn’t leave until their demands were met.
Russell Inglis, a 27-year-old former St Hugh’s College student, said: “The demands are reasonable and, as members of this academic community, we should have the right to make them.”
Asked whether cancelling the lecture series opened by Shimon Peres would be undemocratic, Dan, an 18-year-old Wadham College student, said: “It’s not a question of free speech. We’re happy to have people speaking from a variety of viewpoints but what we object to is the naming of the series after him and getting him to inaugurate it.”
Fellow Wadham student Will McCallum added: “It’s appalling the master of Balliol made a personal invite to Shimon Peres to come.
“I don’t have a problem with him coming to the university – we’ve had far more controversial people – but they have never been invited by an individual and given the Sheldonian to speak in, and it’s a very different matter having the lectures named after him.”
During the siege, the university refused to discuss the demands. After it ended, it was unavailable for comment.
A BAE Systems spokesman said: “BAE Systems maintains the highest ethical standards in the conduct of its business and complies with all applicable laws and regulations.
“We do not sell defence equipment direct from the UK to Israel, but BAE Systems does sell products from its US-managed businesses directly and indirectly to Israel, including through the US government. Any sale of such equipment to Israel is in full compliance with government controls and regulations.”
Balliol College refused to comment.
The protesters called on Oxford University to:
- Release a statement condemning Israeli attacks on Gaza, especially the Islamic University
- Provide scholarships to five Palestinian students from Gaza
- Cease investment in arms firm BAE Systems, which they say supplies weapons to Israel
- Provide resources to help rebuild Gaza University
- Demand Balliol College cancels a lecture series recently inaugurated by Shimon Peres, the president of Israel.