Rally Radcliffe Camera
Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys

Oxford students rallied at second encampment outside Radcliffe Camera

On Sunday 19 May, a group of more than 250 protesters, organised by Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) rallied around the Radcliffe Camera, in an escalation of their previous actions. 

Earlier this morning, a second encampment was set up around the Rad Cam after the University failed to act on the protester’s demands. Representatives from OA4P said “after two weeks of the encampment, the university remains silent. So we said okay, we’ll come to you then.”

The Radcliffe Camera remains open, but access is only through the Gladstone Link in the Old Bodleian Library. The rally was loud enough to cause a disruption in the RadCam, with chants  being loud enough to be heard, according to students inside the library. 

A representative of OA4P started the rally by saying that “this library is full of students” and that the University is “doing everything except negotiating with us,” so “we are going to be heard.” Protesters mockingly addressed the Vice-Chancellor, saying “There’s an elephant in the room and she’s called Irene”.

The rally then went over the two weeks of the encampment in front of the Pitt Rivers museum, including the attack by six men on May 12th, the University statement which failed to address their demands, and the die-in organised at the Sheldonian theatre yesterday to disrupt graduation ceremonies.

Specifically, a representative of OA4P addressed the situation in the first three days of the encampment, when the sprinklers on the lawn of the Natural History Museum were set off at night. The representative said “they tried to flood us out”, and “at 2am they turned on the sprinklers, turning them on one by one at five minute intervals”. 

The Oxford Student understands that University staff forgot to turn off sprinklers for the first night but were not asked to do so by protesters, did not manage to do so successfully the second night when the matter was raised, and that the issue was finally resolved for the third night.

A speaker at the rally then described the ongoing situation in Gaza, describing an intensification of the violence on civilians “comparable to the first few days of the war”.

The rally was attended by over 200 people, students and non-students alike, many of whom were wearing facemasks. Protesters cried out usual chants, including “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest”.

A tourist trying to take photos in front of the Radcliffe Camera said: “I’m broadly supportive of their cause, but I don’t think they should be doing this in such a public area, it’s very disturbing for everyone”.

A postgraduate student at Christ Church and wheelchair user who could not enter the Radcliffe Camera said: “The university needs to act and stop the protests. This is a disgrace, this is condemnable, and this is dangerous. The library must be open. Students are being denied the right to study, and this is a denial of basic rights.” 

A university spokesperson told The Oxford Student:  “We are aware of the ongoing demonstration by members of our University community. We respect our students and staff members right to freedom of expression in the form of peaceful protests. We ask everyone who is taking part to do so with respect, courtesy and empathy. Oxford University’s primary focus is the health and safety of the University community, and to ensure any impact on work, research and learning, including student exams, is minimised. As we have stressed in our student and staff communications there is no place for intolerance at the University of Oxford.”

This comes after protesters set up a second pro-Palestinian encampment on the lawn outside the Radcliffe Camera today at 9 am. The group said their encampments would end immediately if the University entered into negotiations with encampment representatives.

Today marks the 13th day since a pro-Palestine encampment was set up outside the Pitt River Museum. OA4P has held a number of demonstrations across Oxford. 

This story is developing and will be updated.