Police Break Up Violent Protest Against KCL Israel Society Event

 

(Credit: Richard Millett)

Police broke up a talk held by KCL Israel Society on Tuesday when up to 25 pro-Palestinian activists caused a violent protest. The activists smashed a window, threw chairs at the door of the lecture room, and set off fire alarms to disrupt the event.

KCL Israel Society invited guest speaker Admiral Ami Ayalon, who is the former director of Israel’s security agency Shin Bet and a reformed peace activist, to speak in room G.01 of the Norfolk Building at 5pm.

Prior to the event KCL Action Palestine (KCLAP) submitted a statement to the Student Union opposing the talk, calling Ami Ayalon a “controversial guest speaker” and “war criminal”.

Campus security alerted the London Metropolitan Police just after 5pm, when a group of 15 activists from SOAS, LSE and KCL Palestine societies began climbing the windows to unfurl banners. It was during this time that the window of the Norfolk Building entrance was smashed.

(Credit: Esther Endfield)

Marrissa Nelson, a staff member from Student Services, said “I was walking up Surrey Street to catch my bus at the Strand and saw a lot of people shouting loudly and banging on windows. And suddenly between 5:20 and 5:30pm, three police vans swung around the corner down towards the Macadam Building and lots of police got out.”

Another 10 activists had broken into the Norfolk Building and began setting off the fire alarms in an attempt to disrupt the talk. A stack of chairs were thrown against the door of the room where the talk was taking place.

Campus security personnel shielded Esther Endfield, President of the Israel Society, as she filmed the incident on her smartphone whilst being pressed against the door. She later reported assault to the police.

“The door to G.01 in the Norfolk Building swings outwards, and it’s uncommon – most King’s classrooms have doors that open if you push on them – and it’s so terrifying to think that had this not been the case tonight, the protesters would have easily pushed their way into the room where the talk was taking place, and many people could have been seriously hurt” shared Esther.

Although protesters inside the Norfolk building had dispersed by 5:55pm, around 15 activists remained outside the building. To avoid further confrontation campus security led attendees of the event outside through a backdoor exit into Strand Lane.

KCL Action Palestine has denied accusations of involvement in the protests and categorically condemned the aggression that took place at the event. In a statement the group said, “KCLAP had planned to challenge Ami Ayalon and inform the audience of his complicity in the torture of Palestinians as former head of the Shin Bet and the problems surrounding his current views.”

“That the event escalated into a disruption was beyond our control and not incited by any member of our committee. KCLAP is not connected and does not control the actions of external attendees. Some of our members protested after they were left our and people were arbitrarily selected to go into the event, we refute any involvement with what took place beyond this.”

The Israel Society has issued a statement condemning the violent protests. President of KCL Israel Society Esther Endfield said “We don’t know for sure that the people involved were from KCLAP, and even if some members there were from Action Palestine I don’t think as a group they ever intended something like this to happen – we have to give them the benefit of doubt. However we have video footage that shows members of KCLAP involved, or at least standing by when the violence occurred.”

(Credit: Esther Endfield)

 

(Credit: Esther Endfield)

The College has reacted by appointing Ian Creagh, Head of Administration and College Secretary, to head an urgent investigation of the events of Tuesday night and to determine the consequences for damage to College property.

Principal Ed Byrne will also be writing to students about the incident. Moreover the administration has stressed again that should any students unsafe for any reason on campus they must inform campus security immediately.

The KCL Student Officer Team has responded to this incident by saying “We’ve seen reports on social media of students feeling frightened and intimidated – we take this very seriously, and we’re here for you, so please get in touch at hello@kclsu.org if there’s anything you want to talk about. We’re looking into how we move forward from this to make sure all our students are safe, and able to discuss, debate and learn in environments that are supportive and inclusive of all.”

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