Oxford marks workplace day of action for Palestine
Daisy Outram and Gaspard Rouffin
On Wednesday the 7th of February a march calling for “Freedom for Palestine” took place in central Oxford. The demonstration was led by the Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and joined the “Oxford stands with Gaza” vigil organised by several trade unions, including the University and College Union (UCU).
The march started at 12pm in front of the Weston library on Broad Street. Protesters marched along broad street, and turned left onto Cornmarket Street, where they stopped for several minutes in front of the Barclays bank branch.
A protest had been organised in front of the branch by PSC two weeks ago, targeting Barclays for “Banking on Apartheid”. Around 8 protesters were already present in front of the bank under the slogan “protect what you love”, calling both for a “ceasefire” and to “cut the ties to fossil fuels”. A man tried to throw an object on the protestors, but was quickly taken away from the scene by police officers.
The march resumed and turned left onto the High Street, where protesters marched in the middle of the road – briefly interrupting bus and cab traffic in one direction. The demonstration turned left again onto the Radcliffe Square, where the rest of the protest took place.
Chants during the march included “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, “Israel is a terror state”, “Netanyahu you can’t hide, you’re committing genocide”, and “UK, Israel, USA, how many kids have you killed today?”.
Protesters then stopped at the vigil positioned in the North-West corner of the Radcliffe Square, under the Bodleian Library. This had been organised at the initiative of the “Stop the War” coalition, which had called for a workplace day of action on February the 7th to “stand with Gaza”. Around 100 people attended according to UCU.
Speakers included NHS doctors, a medical student from Syria, and representatives from both UCU (University and College Union), the majority trade union amongst Oxford University staff, and NEU (National Education Union), a large primary and secondary school trade union.
Rebecca Inglis, NHS doctor in Gaza since 2015, quoted colleagues in the region. They shared that their healthcare system was being “systematically destroyed”, and that hospitals were under “continuous and increasing pressure” with deaths occurring daily because of insufficient resources. She detailed conditions in Gaza, with “2 to 3 babies per incubator”, supplies running out, and many “disillusioned” doctors being displaced in tents, finishing her speech by saying “Israel has no humanitarian considerations”.
A representative from the Oxford UCU branch declared that “at least 92” academics had been killed since October, and that scholars were being specifically “targeted” by Israeli strikes. He explained that no university had been left untouched in Gaza, and that the only university hospital there had been destroyed, which constituted an “erasure of culture and intellectual life.”
The NEU representative stated that “education is a fundamental human right”, that “all Palestinian children should have the learn”, and that it was of the “responsibility of every trade unionist” to name what is happening in Palestine as “genocide”. He congratulated those protesting against Barclays, condemned the government’s move to ban public boycotts and protests, and praised Oxford City Council for its motion against said anti-boycott bill.
A group of representatives from the Oxford branch of the National Union of Journalists was also present at the Radcliffe Camera. Their secretary commented that they were “here to support” the “116 journalists and media workers have been killed in Gaza since the start of this war”, which represents “more than 10% of all journalists”, and that “journalists are being targeted because they are the only ones that are telling the story of what’s going on inside.”
A student who had been working in the nearby Bodleian library but had come down onto the Radcliffe Square commented that it was a “welcome distraction from work.”
The Oxford UCU branch has been contacted for comment.
Image Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys
Image Description: Protesters in front of the RadCam.