UCLU’s Friends of Palestine has distanced itself from the protests, stating that it was in no way “organised on behalf of the society, or affiliated to the society.”
In a press release published on social media last Friday, the Friends of Palestine claim that “half of the people there were middle-aged”, and therefore not acting on behalf of the official UCLU student society.
Though, they did also add that, despite there having been a police intervention, they soon left as there were no grounds for intervention.
Problems began when the former Israel Defence Force (IDF) member and Director at StandWithUs, Hen Mazzig was invited to give speech by the UCLU Friends of Israel.
Whilst in the IDF, Mazzig worked as an officer in CoGAT- whose role has been hotely debated. In a statement on Friday afternoon The UCLU friends of Palestine society stated that CoGAT is the “the Israeli state body responsible for the day to day management of the military occupation, including demolition of Palestinian homes, forced displacement, restrictions of movement, and is headquartered in illegal settlements.” The Times of Israel described his role as “overseeing the construction of medical facilities, schools, environmental projects, roads, water-related infrastructure, and for security coordination with the Palestinian Security Forces .”
At 6:30 pm on Thursday night, students turned up blocking entry to the room where the talk was supposed to take place. According to the press release, the protestors remained at the entrance to the room for the full duration of the talk, and protested when Mazzig and attendees transferred rooms. When Mazzig left, students locked arms and chanted “shame.”
Another student who took part said that “this was a non-violent protest. We were exercising our freedom of expression, a basic right that is being denied to Palestinians living under occupation.’
The Friends of Palestine Society state that they abided by the UCL Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech, a code which was also called upon to allow the talk to take place in the first place, despite the fact that it was blocked by UCLU up until a few hours before the event.
The society stated that they, “condemn all forms of abuse and violence,” and encourage the authorities to investigate any instances which may have been reported.
However, there are some discrepancies between the Friends of Palestine’s press release and reports from the scene.
Although in their press release they state that the students who gained entry to the building through a window, ‘lay themselves down peacefully and silently in protest on the floor while facing the outrage of the attendees,’ other reports suggest that the protestors were far from silent.
The press release also stated that attendees of the talk were “free to leave at any time” which conflicts with previous accounts of students being locked inside the room by police trying to control the situation.
Featured image: Pi Media