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BREAKING: Encampment Attempt to Force Entry Into King’s Alumni Awards

Members of the KCL Encampment attempt to force entry into the KCL alumni awards

On Tuesday 11 June, King’s College London’s (KCL) annual Alumni Awards night, recognising a small number of KCL alumni for their achievements over the year, saw around 20 members of the pro-Palestine encampment attempt to disrupt the event.

How have the Alumni Awards been protested?

Sharing their itinerary at noon the same day, the encampment followed through on their plan to start a protest in the evening, as the Alumni Awards event was set to start at 6:30 pm. The protesters soon filled the Strand quad entrance with shouts of “Viva Viva Palestina” and “From the River to the Sea Palestine Will be Free”.

Using a microphone and a large speaker, they could be heard deep into the building as high as the 6th floor. The exact level of disruption inside the event is not known at this time.

Though starting the protest with a set of speakers, the protesters soon stopped using them, relying on a smaller megaphone. About an hour into the protest, the group tried to force their way into the Great Hall but were stopped by several members of the security team.

While the group was not able to enter the venue in full, Roar can confirm that one known significant figure from the group did enter.

Additionally, a source shared that at least two members of the supporting staff observed the protest or passed by showing support for the protest, saying to the students “Good luck, well done, keep going”.

One of the categories of the event was “King’s Global Health Award”. The nominees included health activists, nurses and doctors like Barbara Gomes, Dr Victoria Harmer and Dr Jonathan Wan. As the award night progressed, the group of protesters stood outside the hall with a poster stating: “Dr Maisara was killed by arms KCL paid for” (see photo below). The person being referenced is King’s alumnus Dr Maisara Alrayyes who was killed in Gaza on 5 November 2023 alongside his family. 

Prior to the awards ceremony over 200 members of staff nominated Dr Alrayyes in recognition of “his dedication to improving healthcare for women and children from low-income and war-affected regions”. When speaking to Roar a KCL source stated; “While awards are not awarded posthumously, in light of the passion of our community, we felt compelled to honour his exceptional achievement.” During the awards ceremony Professor Nicki Cohen, the Dean of Medical Education, gave a speech to honour his achievements and mourn his loss, this speech was met with a standing ovation from the attendees.

On 8 November 2023, KCL did share a remembrance post about the Dr Alrayyes soon after his passing.

Photo Courtesy of Angelika Etherington-Smith
What has happened so far?

This is not the first event happening in the Great Hall that the encampment members have protested. Three weeks ago they protested a session held by Vice Chancellor Shitij Kapur during the London Defence Conference. They shared that they failed to confront him that day as he left the room using an alternative exit.

Since the start of the encampment, the group has engaged in a range of protests – including a die-in during the Open Day at Guy’s campus. Both the encampment protest and subsequent negotiations over the set of demands presented by the protesters are ongoing.

What is the KCL Alumni Awards?

The KCL Alumni Awards is designed to celebrate those alumni who have excelled in the fields of Service and international Impact as well as the fields of Arts, Culture and STEM, among others. The event was hosted in the Great Hall in the King’s Building, right across from the encampment of protesters for Palestine

11 June marks day 30 of the encampment. Those involved in the month-long campaign explain they are protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza over the last eight months and the university’s response to the developments in the region. 

CORRECTION: When initially published this article stated it was not aware if Dr Maisara Alrayyes was recognised during the KCL Alumni Awards. Since publication, Roar has been informed that he was nominated by over 200 members of staff and given a speech honouring his legacy, the piece has been altered to reflect this.

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