Pro-Palestinian activists raided a talk by the former head of the Israeli secret police at King’s College London last night.
Demonstrators entered the Macadam building chanting, breaking windows, throwing chairs and setting off multiple fire alarms before police were called.
Israeli politician and former head of Shin Bet Ami Ayalon was giving a speech to approximately 56 students when security stopped protesters who had gained access to the building from entering the room.
“I thought the security were amazing because they managed to prevent any protestors from entering the event itself.” said one student. “They can’t help what people do in the street but they managed to keep the protest contained and outside the event… the protest started within 3 minutes and then the fire alarm with 5 minutes”
Another 150 students had been turned away due to lack of space and many students who wished to attend the event were outside, according to the Israel society.
Three KCL safe space officers and two security guards had been arranged in advance of the event in anticipation of protests.
KCL Action Palestine released a statement prior to the event: “As of today, KCL Action Palestine has not received any official information from the Student’s Union (KCLSU) as to why Ami Ayalon was let to speak alone without fair and balanced representation of voices in the panel. This is a requirement when it comes to controversial speakers under the union’s External Speaker’s Policy.”
Police confirmed that officers were called at 7.18pm on 19 January with reports of a number of protesters on Surrey Street outside King’s students’ union building. Some of protesters gained access to the building and protests ended at 8.45pm with no arrests.
The KCL Israeli Society issued a statement on their Facebook page describing the scenes and apologising to its members. They say the society did not anticipate violence nor having to report assault to the police and claim at least 15 officers attended the scene, a number also reported by The Tab.
Footage of the event was posted on Facebook with the caption “it doesn’t represent how truly terrifying it actually was”.
In the statement a committee member wrote: “Never did I ever think that I would have to write a post like this, but in life sometimes you do things that you never expect.
“My event had to be stopped and the building evacuated because college security and the police were so scared that they would light a real fire and that we wouldn’t know because of the false alarms. When did I become so unsafe in one of the global universities in the world that we can no longer hold an event without being scared for our safety.
“Also sincere apologies to the 200+ people that came to our event to listen and learn, I’m truly sorry that it turned violent and to the 150 of you that got turned away because only 56 people being allowed into the room. Thank you for coming along and giving an Israel society a chance to have its voice heard.”
Other accounts of the event feature statements from witnesses, one claiming that Palestine activists were heard chanting ‘Free Free Palestine’ and ‘Viva Viva Palestina’ and pushing Palestinian flags against the windows of the room in which the event was taking place.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson spoke to Jewish News condeming the protestors: “Britain and Israel share many important academic links and speakers must be able to address meetings peacefully. Our universities should be safe spaces for students to expand their minds, and there can be no justification for violent intimidation that curtails free speech.”
London Student contacted KCL Action Palestine but received no response at the time of writing.