BREAKING: Demonstration standing with Palestine held in Oxford
Rose Henderson, Milo Dennison, and Daisy Outram
Locals and students have staged an “Oxford Stands with Palestine” demonstration starting on Cornmarket Street and progressing through central Oxford.
Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, around 300 demonstrators formed outside St Michael at the North Gate Church at 5pm and began speeches and chants such as “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea”.
The group then marched down the High Street, continuing their message that “when people are occupied, resistance is justified”.
One onlooker questioned how the protestors could march after the recent violence, calling them a “disgrace”. Police presence at the event included drones and around 50 officers keeping track of the march’s progress, but they reportedly did not expect the significant size and movement of the group.
Thames Valley Police said that they had “a legal obligation to facilitate peaceful protest”. They added that “everyone has the right to demonstrate peacefully and we will work closely with partner agencies and the local community to manage demonstrations.”
This follows conflict in the Middle East as Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a series of attacks from Gaza on Saturday. The Israeli military has since targeted Gaza with air strikes and over 1,400 people have been killed.
Chants also highlighted international comparisons to the Ukraine war, stating that “if it’s a war crime in Ukraine, in Gaza it’s just the same”. They also called out “1, 2, 3, 4 occupation no more, 5, 6, 7, 8 Israel is a terrorist state”.
A leading figure commented that the war is “between Hamas and Netanyahu” and that it had “nothing to do with Israel”.
Communication from the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies department confirmed the University Security Services had cautioned potential disruption due to the protest.
The email pointed to PSC’s previous events attracting anywhere from “four to 100 individuals”, but that this demonstration would be more prominent.
They highlighted that other demonstrations across the country have been mostly “peaceful”, but “many have seen Palestinian flags waved and anti-Israel flags” hosting speakers whose statements suggested “tacit support for Hamas or antisemitism”.
The UK government has recently commented on police response to events held in solidarity with Palestine, condemning any potential promotion of Hamas. Home Secretary Suella Braverman advised it was not just “explicit pro-Hamas symbols and chants that are cause for concern”, but anything that expressed a “violent desire to see Israel erased from the world”.
This included “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, which she raised as a potential racially aggravated section 5 public order offence in certain contexts.
Image Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys for The Oxford Student