Police were called to University College London (UCL) on Thursday night amidst disturbing claims of common assault and verbal intimidation by pro-Palestinian protesters during an event with an Israeli speaker in which attendees were forced to lock themselves into a room.
According to Jewish News, students at UCL have described the terrifying scene which caused some, including event organiser, student Friends of Israel Society co-president Liora Cadranel, who had to flee the event in tears. Another student, Devora Khafi, suffered a panic attack following an alleged assault by a pro-Palestinian activist.
Attendees locked themselves into a room, after a 100 protesters gathered outside to demonstrate against the arrival of Israeli activist Hen Mazzig.
Police have been called to UCL after an Israel Society hosted event erupted following protests from the Friends of Palestine Society which has left some Israel Society members “trapped” in the Haldane Room
Posted by The Tab London on Thursday, October 27, 2016
Mazzig was due to address students about his work as a humanitarian affairs officer in the COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) unit in the West Bank.
However, footage emerged on social media of loud chanting and drumming by a large mob outside. Calls of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “shame” intimidated a number of students.
The event was initially cancelled before being reinstated on Thursday after organisers and security staff changed the location twice.
Three student activists managed to break into the venue by forcing a window open. They lay down in protest and were removed by security personnel.
Four police cars then arrived and bystanders estimated there were over 20 police officers present on the scene by 8pm.
— Devora Khafi (@DevoraKhafi) October 27, 2016
Awful scenes at UCL tonight. Disruption over dialogue will never be the way forward.
— Rob Angel (@robangel13) October 27, 2016
Liora told Jewish News: “There was lots of screaming and banging on the doors. We all felt scared and struggled to concentrate on the talk. It was manic”
“Despite the banging outside, Hen continued to speak about peace. It was actually really lovely as we were united and sang Hatikvah despite the noise outside.”
Despite the protests Mazzig spoke for 20 minutes to approximately 25 students. He spoke to the Jewish News afterwards to describe the incident.
Mazzig, a former Israel Education Director at StandWithUs, said: “I am surprised I was targeted given my message of peace and coexistence. It was really hard to speak above the noise.
“After the talk I was ushered away by police and told to run as fast as I could. I was more scared than during my IDF service.”
He later tweeted: “The campus was the war zone and the streets are the safe place. I’m out. My god.”
However, she alleges a common assault took place with an unknown man pushing her against a door. This prompted police to escort the individual away.
— Elliot Miller (@Elliotmiller94) October 27, 2016
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police told The Jewish News: “Police were called at 19:00 hours on 27 October to a venue at University College London.
“Officers spoke to security at the university who were happy to let the demonstration go ahead on its grounds. They provided a policing presence during the demonstration.”
In January, students at King’s College faced assault charges after violently disrupting a talk with Israeli speaker Ami Ayalon.
The Union of Jewish Students issued a statement following the incident at UCL, in which they say “there can be no excuses” for what happened.
“The fact that such violence and hostility took place only 9 months after the incident at KCL, with police having to once again be called, is an absolute disgrace. UCL Friends of Israel were simply trying to engage students in discussion on Israel, but instead were met with a wall of intolerance and intimidation aimed at shutting down free speech.
They added that it is “reassuring however that, despite the acts of the protestors, the event went ahead as planned “, with no students harmed.
UJS add that “It is imperative that UCL and UCLU (UCL’s Union) take action following last night’s events and we will be working with UCL Friends of Israel to ensure just that.”
Meanwhile inside the meeting room:
Posted by Sussex Friends Of Israel on Thursday, October 27, 2016