Gaza die-in at Sheldonian attempts to disrupt graduation ceremony

A group of 50 students laid down at the staircase near the East entrance to the Sheldonian Theatre, in an attempt to disrupt three graduation ceremonies today. 

While the entrance to the plaza around the Sheldonian and the Bodleian Library is blocked and the gates have been locked by University staff, the graduation ceremony scheduled this morning is going on as usual.

The police reportedly asked the group of protesters to move away from the gate in order to stop blocking the entrance to the Bodleian Library from Radcliffe Square.

A worker who appeared to be a University library employee kicked a protester with his foot in an attempt to move him out of the main accessible pathway, and allegedly said to tourists: “Feel free to kick them out the way.”

The University has arranged for the graduates to leave by a side gate that connects the Bodleian Library and the Sheldonian Theatre. 

A representative of Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) told The Oxford Student that they are disrupting the graduation ceremonies because the University has stayed silent to their demands, and that they aim to disrupt the graduations “peacefully” and “silently”. The die-in also aims to draw attention to the fact that there is no graduating class in Gaza in 2024, as inscribed on placards around protesters.

OA4P said that the Vice-Chancellor “has refused to even discuss divesting from genocide”, and that they wanted a dialogue to “make a University we can all be proud of.” 

A representative of OA4P told The Oxford Student that they have requested several times for engagement and submitted demands formally but received no response from the University. 

“There can be no business as usual. The University must not be allowed to forget this, and we will escalate to disrupt its functioning until they join us at the negotiating table and until our demands are met,” said OA4P in a statement.  

OA4P said they are “committed to continued mobilisation” if the University continues to stay silent. The group did not specify what action it would take 

This comes after OA4P held an emergency rally followed by a press conference in front of the Clarendon Building, which houses the offices of the Proctors and the Vice-Chancellor.

This also comes as the University of Cambridge has agreed to start negotiations with Cambridge for Palestine (C4P) representatives after protesters expanded encampments at Cambridge’s central administration building after Cambridge failed to meet C4P’s deadline to open negotiations. The divestment negotiation will reportedly begin next week, according to Varsity.

Around 1 pm, the protesters assembled on Catte Street before marching around the Clarendon building onto Broad Street. They sat on the steps outside the Sheldonian Theatre and put their red hand-print-painted shirts on the gates. The shirts were taken off after the protesters took photos with them.

Image Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys

Image Description: Protesters lying down