Oxford Admin Cages in First Campsite, Bulldozes Memorial for Gaza Martyrs

25 June 2024

Early this morning around 6:30, after 48 hours of enclosing OA4P members, University administration destroyed the Gaza Memorial Garden and community space at the Pitt Rivers Museum site using heavy machinery.

Given the over 20,000 children missing, and 40,000 Palestinians murdered in israel's rampant genocidal assault on Gaza, OA4P members erected memorial headstones upon symbolic graves to remind us of those lost: thousands of wounded children with no surviving family, the maiming and dismembering of yet another generation, the thousands of families that have been completely wiped from civil registries, the untold number missing and buried under the rubble, the slain elderly denied proper funeral, and the hundreds of extrajudicial abductees and arrested.

Instead of acknowledging its role in bankrolling and facilitating this horrific reality, University Admin instead authorised the destruction of the memorial to the martyrs of Gaza, sending security and staff to shovel, dig up, and desecrate the memorial.

Yesterday marked 50 days since our Gaza solidarity encampment began. In that time, Oxford's rhetoric has increasingly echoed language we have heard from repressive institutions around the globe, including this country's government. Using tactics that range from legal challenges to police violence, universities across the UK have resorted to alarming modes of suppression to silence the growing student movement for Palestine. Our movement has transformed the UK political scene, and this zeitgeist is especially crucial as university administrations are trying everything to shut down the movement before the summer ends.

In Oxford, security erected a fence around protestors, installed a padlock, and stated they would be permitted to leave the space but would not be allowed to return. By padlocking the gate and barring return, the Administration issued an ultimatum: protestors could have health, safety, and freedom of movement, or they could continue their peaceful protest for Palestine. But they could not have both.

While the Administration was building its metal fence around our encampment Sunday, israeli jets bombarded an UNRWA compound in Gaza, killing at least eight people. This adds to the almost 40,000 Palestinians that have been killed in the last 8 months. Rather than engage with this reality, the University prioritised the appearance of its lawn, stating: "The lawn outside the Museum of Natural History is an important space for our many visitors to enjoy and relax in. We have temporarily fenced off the area in preparation for returning it to public use to avoid further damage to the lawn".

Following weeks of public commitment to regular, good-faith dialogue between our Negotiating Team and the Administration, OA4P is especially appalled that the University prioritised the health and visual aesthetics of grass above the wellbeing of its students, its commitment to the right to peaceful protest, and its moral obligation to act against israel's ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. This was an unwarranted act of escalation from Admin and one that has brought deep harm and grief upon our communty.

OA4P remains committed to an ongoing dialogue with the University, and we will continue to hold Oxford accountable for its role in israel's genocide, occupation, and apartheid. We continue proudly with our second encampment outside the Radcliffe Camera. In the past fifty days, this campus has witnessed the largest movement for Palestinian liberation in its history. We are proud to join in the legacies of all those who fought for Palestinian liberation in this city before us all those who will continue to fight collectively until Palestine is free.