A group of students marched through Oxford’s city centre today last Wednesday to protest against the University’s investment in the arms trade.
The students voiced anger over University’s investment in BAE systems, a defence company that supplies Israel with arms.
The protest was organised by a coalition of student societies, including Oxford Students’ Palestine Society, Socialist Worker Student Society and Stop the War.
Twenty-five students began the protest from Broad Street shortly after lunchtime on Wednesday. Most were dressed in sub-fusc and carrying banners bearing slogans such as “End Oxford arms investment now!”
They chanted “1, 2, 3, 4 arms investment no more; 5, 6, 7, 8 don’t invest in the Israeli state” and “Oxford’s £1.7 million helped to kill the Palestinians.”
Habiba Islam, a first-year student at Sommerville said that the University‘s investments in BAE implicates Oxford’s students and claimed that she was protesting to register her disgust at the way her tuition fees were being used.
She said, “we as students are indirectly responsible for the death of 1300 Palestinians, including 400 children. I for one do not want to have my tuition fees going to kill a 6-year-old child. I think that is a horrendous thing for our university to be involved in.”
Another student added, “we’re here to put pressure on the Uni. We don’t think they should invest in arms systems.”
The demonstration comes as Oxford University’s council is to review its arms trade investment on Friday.
Aidan Simpson, one of the protesters said, “we want to make clear to the council the students’ feeling on this.”
He added, “if people don’t do anything, nothing gets done…Me individually standing here doesn’t make much of a difference but the fact that people want to stand up and make a difference, yeah it is does.”
Currently, Oxford University invests £1.7 m in BAE systems and about £4.4 m in other arms trade corporations.
The University’s policy on socially responsible investment states that it is “committed to ensuring that it makes investment decisions responsibly and with integrity”. The Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee is responsible for ensuring compliance with this policy.
Ruth Collier, a spokesperson for the university stated that Oxford is “committed to free speech and supports the right to protest lawfully.” She also pointed out that “the University does not invest directly in individual companies, it invests in funds, which then spread investments from many different institutions across many different companies.”
One witness to the protest said, “the students seem very determined and passionate. You can tell they’re believing in what they’re doing and they want to put their point across. I think the sub-fusc catches attention”.
Habiba Islam concluded, “we demonstrated today to show that we passionately believe Oxford university should be an educational institution not a sponsor of destruction and should disinvest from all arms companies immediately.”