UK police arrest 16 at Oxford University Gaza war protest

LONDON — UK police have arrested 16 people at a protest organised by a pro-Palestinian student group at Oxford University, in the latest flare-up on a prestigious campus over the war in Gaza.

Thames Valley Police said the individuals were arrested Thursday on suspicion of aggravated trespass, while one was also held on suspicion of common assault. 

It follows protests in recent weeks at more than a dozen UK universities, including at world-renowned Oxford and Cambridge, emulating similar actions on campuses in the United States and elsewhere.

Demonstrators opposed to Israel’s handling of the war against Hamas militants in Gaza have made various demands, including that universities sever academic and financial ties with the country.

In Oxford, the arrests came after students entered a university administrative building on Thursday morning, claiming they had “exhausted all other avenues of communication” with administrators.

“Instead of engaging in dialogue with her students, the vice-chancellor chose to evacuate the building, place it on lockdown, and call the police to make arrests,” a spokesperson for the Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) protest group said. 

“We demand the administration meet with us to negotiate immediately.”

Videos posted on social media showed people sitting on the ground in front of a police van being dragged away by officers, as onlookers chanted “shame”.

Oxford University said in a statement that demonstrators had “gone beyond” peaceful protest, and that had “culminated in forced entry and temporary occupation” of some university offices.

It added that OA4P had “escalated their protest actions from mainly peaceful to direct action tactics”, creating a “deeply intimidating environment” to community members, including Jewish students and staff.

The university’s union, which represents academics, lecturers and staff, condemned “bringing in police to violently arrest” students who were “engaged in peaceful protest”. — AFP