Protesters shut down Israel Society event at King’s College London (Update: Statements released)

UPDATE 20/01/2016: Following last night’s events, KCL, KCL Student Union (KCLSU), and KCL Action Palestine have all released statements.

KCL has announced that Ian Creagh, Head of Administration and College Secretary, has been commissioned to “conduct an urgent investigation…to establish what happened and what action might need to be taken as a consequence”.

The Principal of KCL, Ed Byrne, “will also be writing to students to remind them that violent protest is totally unacceptable and that we expect them to be tolerant and respectful of others’ views and opinions.”

KCLSU, meanwhile, has stated that: “students should also be able to constructively and peacefully protest. However, we don’t support violent action taking place, especially around our students, and we don’t support action leading to an approved event closing early.”

Finally, a statement released by KCL Action Palestine states: “KCL Action Palestine would like to categorically condemn any aggression that took place at the Israel Society’s Ami Ayalon event.”It also claims “that the event escalated into a disruption was beyond our control and not incited by any member of our committee. KCLAP…does not control the actions of external attendees. As stated we do not condone any aggressive reaction on our campuses.”

UPDATE 21/01/2016: Despite KCL Action Palestine’s denials, Student Rights have been told by a number of students that the KCL Action Palestine President was “inside the building protesting and clapping” as part of the demonstration, and that he made no attempts to stop the disruptive behaviour despite a request from the Israel Society.

Last night, the Israel Societies at King’s College London (KCL) and the London School of Economics (LSE) hosted a joint event with Ami Ayalon, the former director of Shin Bet and co-founder of peace project ‘The Peoples Voice’.

Prior to the event, KCL Action Palestine had released a statement accusing Ayalon of being a “racist” and a “war criminal”.

The event was at full capacity, with over 60 people arriving to hear Ayalon speak, while a small group of students protested outside.

It has since been reported that around 20 students chanting “Free, Free Palestine” attempted to disrupt the meeting within minutes of the event starting.

The protesters, who were unable to access the room, proceeded to bang on windows and doors, smashing the glass, and set off multiple fire alarms.

When protesters accessed the building they reportedly threw chairs and screamed verbal abuse at students attending the event. A senior member of KCL Israel Society has also reported that she was assaulted to the police.

The event organisers had booked several university security guards and safe space officers, which initially prevented the protesters from entering the room.

However, due to the level of protest around 20 police officers later arrived at the scene and the building was evacuated, with the event finishing half an hour early for security reasons.

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) has responded to last night’s events, stating:“There can be no justification for the events last night at KCL. The KCLSU Israel society were hosting an event about peace and were greeted by violence and intimidation. The fact that the police had to be called by the university in order to protect students from fellow students is a disgrace.”

Here at Student Rights, we share UJS’ feelings – it is simply unacceptable for students to shut down debate in this way.

Jewish and Israeli students shouldn’t be made to feel intimidated on campus, nor should their voices be marginalised and silenced by a handful of protestors.

Student Rights will follow the situation closely and report any updates in due course.

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