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‘This is not how to do it’: Oxford University condemns ‘criminal’ and ‘violent action’ of OA4P in new University response

Oxford University has released a statement about the recent protests organised by Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P). A sit-in protest in the University’s administrative offices in Wellington square resulted in the arrest of 16 students. The statement describes the “direct action tactics” used by the protesters as “violent and criminal” and instructs them that “this is not how to do it.”

The statement asserts that the actions taken by OA4P have “gone beyond [the] line” of peaceful protest. According to the University, the protest was not peaceful but a violent action that involved the demonstrators “forcibly overpowering the receptionist” and causing distress to staff. OA4P is also accused of “making inaccurate statements and claims about the University” and putting up “defamatory” posters of the Vice-Chancellor.

According to the statement, efforts of the University have been directed to achieving “practical” results, such as working with the Palestinian Society on strengthening scholarship provision for applicants from Gaza and the West Bank. The University says it has already strengthened its CARA commitment to academics at risk and begun work on a crisis scholarship scheme for Palestinian students. 

The University denies claims made by OA4P that they have refused to negotiate and asserts that “the University has continuously been in dialogue with concerned students and faculty, including people who are involved in the encampment.” The statement also describes OA4P’s pre-conditions for negotiations as “prejudicial” and it accuses OA4P of not being “transparent about their membership nor whose interests they represent.”

The statement emphasises the “deeply intimidating environment” the protests have created, in particular, for “Jewish students and staff and members of the local Jewish community.” The University stresses the importance of safety and maintaining “foundational principles of dignity, care and respect” that “some of the protesters have undermined.”

The statements concludes by asserting that dialogue in the University doesn’t have to “follow others’ playbooks” and that recent developments highlight the need to “teach our students how to disagree well and with respect and courtesy and through our many formal and informal channels.”

OA4P issued a statement about the sit-in in response, maintaining that their protest was peaceful and they intended to leave as soon as the administration met for negotiations.

OA4P told Cherwell that all 16 protesters were released without charges and that this was evidence “refuting the narrative that anyone was violent.” They also denied the claim that their protest included a “forcible overpowering” of a receptionist during protests.

The statement continued: “When informed of the threat of arrest, the students willingly stood up and voluntarily offered to vacate the premises.” They alleged that following this, the students were arrested and their phones were taken from them, prohibiting recording. 

They said that protesters then stood in front of building exits to block the police from removing the arrested students but that the police had “violently pushed and thrown demonstrators to the floor.”

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