Oxford Community Independent Councillors Stand With OA4P

23 May 2024

Today, Oxford University students staged a peaceful sit-in at their university administration offices in Wellington Square. This latest principled action was a renewed effort to engage in dialogue with the Vice Chancellor, who has refused to listen to peaceful protests, encampments, requests to meet, common room resolutions and written statements from the university community demanding that Oxford University boycott and divest from Israeli institutions and companies which are complicit in the ongoing genocide on Gaza. As we write, 2400 students, 600 faculty and staff members, 14 trade unions and 200 healthcare workers have signed open letters asking Oxford University to cut ties with Israeli genocide, military occupation and apartheid.

Instead of engaging in dialogue, the Vice Chancellor ordered the evacuation of the building, placing it on lockdown and calling Thames Valley Police to make arrests. Disturbingly, it seems this hostile response was pre-planned via a tier system, which classes non-violent protests as a terror threat. The heavy police presence included the canine unit. When informed of arrest, students willingly stood up and offered to leave. In an escalatory move, police forcibly arrested students. The police pushed community members violently and threw demonstrators to the ground.

We condemn this appalling response in the strongest possible terms. The disconnect between the Vice Chancellor's purported commitment to freedom of speech, peaceful protest and compassion and the hostility unleashed on students-to whom the university has a duty of care-is flagrant. The University has avoided and hindered action on divestment, issuing ambiguous statements and failing to acknowledge students' voices or address their concerns in any meaningful way. The Administration's reliance on violent force to disperse a peaceful protest can only further erode trust in the university's readiness to protect fundamental democratic rights.

As city councillors, we are unwaveringly committed to upholding the democratic rights and freedoms of everyone in our city. Our city council has unanimously voted for a ceasefire and reaffirmed the rights of everyone in Oxford to use peaceful means such as boycott, divestment and sanctions to end international support for Israeli oppression of Palestinians and well-documented violations of international law.

We applaud Oxford University students and staff for their courageous stand against local complicity in the every-intensifying, soul shattering violence we all continue to witness daily in Gaza and throughout Palestine. Their solidarity and organising work is exemplary and vital in the face of heightened attacks on democratic rights throughout the UK, as elected officials and institutions attempt to silence dissent and shift the focus away from untold crimes against humanity.

We call on the university to end hostility towards its students, faculty and community members; to call for the release of the students arrested; and to enter into good faith negotiations with Oxford Action for Palestine. We urge the University to listen to its students, and to heed their demands-that Oxford University disclose all finances, divest from and boycott Israeli genocide, apartheid and occupation, overhaul the university's investment policy, stop banking with Barclays, and support Palestinian-led rebuilding of education in Gaza, where every university has been destroyed by Israeli occupation forces with the urgency this moment requires.

We stand steadfast in solidarity with Palestinians and all those supporting their collective struggle for liberation from settler colonialism, military occupation and apartheid.

Cllr Edward Mundy
Cllr Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini
Cllr Barbara Coyne
Oxford Community Independents