Two police units were called to keep order outside Waterloo Campus during the KCL Action Palestine’s protest against the invitation of Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev on Tuesday the 13th November. In the midst of continued objection to rising Palestinian civilian casualties at the hands of Israeli forces, KCL Israel Society planned to host the ambassador in Bush House, but moved the meeting to Waterloo just before it was due to begin.
Around 100 demonstrators followed the talk from the Strand over the bridge, carrying placards and chanting slogans that would ring out for more than two hours. Placards equated Israeli policy with genocide, white supremacy and state-sponsored terror while others charged Regev with defending apartheid.
The boisterous chanting, drum-beating and howling of the protesters were met by the arrival of City of London and Metropolitan Police units that encircled the protest. Chants of ‘Cops Off Campus!’ immediately broke out while one officer pulled the President to one side and asked, in a melee of Palestinian flags and kaffiyehs, ‘what’s this protest about then?’ Responding to the chagrin of one protester, another police officer claimed ‘we’re just hear to see what’s happening.’ A further escalating element was added when a helicopter flew in and hovered over Stamford Street for around 20 minutes.
A couple of KCL students were present at the protest that actively disagreed with its premise and stood among the protesters for some time. One student, when asked why he did not support the demonstration replied: ‘I don’t support the protest because I respect freedom.’ When asked if he thought Regev and the government he represented were curtailing the freedom of Palestinians and Gazans with the occupation and blockade, he replied: ‘Israeli is based on democracy and I don’t see how Israel has discriminated against minorities… they are saying “Free Gaza” and I agree; they should free Gaza from Hamas which is a terrorist, jihadist organisation that uses human shields… The reason they’re protesting here and not for Syria or North Korea or Yemen – the only particularity of this protest against Israel is because it’s a Jewish state’. Those taking part in the protest mostly declined to comment – from City as well as those from King’s.
Regev is due to speak at City University on the 21st of November, which has already attracted condemnation from their Palestine Society that has claimed the university has abrogated its ‘basic duty of care to its students, especially those of Palestinian and Arab origin… many of whom have suffered directly at the hands of Israeli security services.’ The statement out of City asserted that freedom of speech would be impossible at the event as Israel’s new anti-boycott law states those ‘supporting BDS or a boycott of settlements’ will be denied entry into the country. In their statement too, KCL Action Palestine condemned Senior Management’s statement to make King’s ‘the best connected university with Israel’, a move they said unfairly used tuition fees to support Israeli institutions and normalize ‘human rights violations and war crimes’.