Wellington Square, which protesters attempted to occupy
Credit: Rebecca Whalley

16 students arrested after OA4P occupy University offices

At around 8am today, a group of protesters from Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) entered the University administrative building on Wellington Square, and began to occupy an office on the first floor.

In an update this afternoon, OA4P said that 16 student demonstrators have been arrested. They also said the Vice-Chancellor spoke with the student-protesters before leaving the University building.

Thames Valley Police confirmed that 16 people were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass and one protester was also arrested on suspicion of common assault.

During the sit-in, one protester was injured after police officers allegedly clashed with protesters. The arrested students were put in an armoured police van, which was blocked by protesters sitting down on the streets.

Little Clarendon Street was locked down through the Woodstock entrance. Other entrances through Walton Street remained open.

Police took the protesters from inside the building out of the front entrance, and managed to get at least two away in two separate police cars. Protesters attempted to stop the second of the two police cars by standing in front of it but moved out of the way quickly.

There were at least 40 police officers on-site at the time. At least five police cars were parked on Wellington Square, and one police vehicle entered the building through the back gate on Little Clarendon Street. Organised crime vehicles also arrived.

A group of OA4P protesters grouped at the entrance of the building, and blocked access to it. The police asked protesters to leave, reportedly telling them: “You may be liable for arrest.”

Protesters blocking the entrance to the building on Little Clarendon Street. Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys

The building was put on lockdown, with a piece of paper at the door of the offices stating “We are in lockdown – no access”.

A banner could be seen hanging from the first floor of the Wellington Square building, with a list of seven demands, including “Disclose all finances”, “Divest from Israeli genocide, apartheid, and occupation”, and “Support Palestinian-led rebuilding of education in Gaza”. A seventh demand was added from previous protests, stating: “Amnesty for all involved”.

Protesters outside the building were reportedly chanting “Irene, police are all you’ve got, we the students won’t be stopped”, and “Let them go”.

Police talking to participants at the protest. Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys

Those who continued to occupy Little Clarendon Street were forcibly removed from the path outside Taylor’s by police officers, with onlookers chanting “shame”. Some protestors have also reported feeling concussed from the incident.

An OA4P statement on X reads: “Emergency: mass arrests are happening now at our sit-in at Wellington Square! Mobilise now for support!”

OA4P also stated: “We will not leave the Administration offices in Wellington Square until the University agrees to negotiate on the preconditions we have already requested”.

They demanded a meeting within the next 24 hours, and “the provision of amnesty, with no retaliatory measures.”

Following the protest at Wellington Square, the group have moved to the H B Allen Centre of Keble College, which is host to the Conference of Colleges today. They continued their demands to the University with chants such as “negotiation now, shut the Uni down”.

The Oxford Student understands that the protests can be heard from within the conference. Cars driving by the demonstration have also been honking in support.

Protestors at the H B Allen Centre. Credit: Gaspard Rouffin

The Oxford University and College Union has released a statement on X and expressed their continued solidarity with OA4P.

“We have written to the VC urging them to call off the police, release those who have already been arrested, and engage students and staff in negotiations in relation to Palestine as they have repeatedly requested over the past weeks,” according to Oxford UCU.

The University and College Union (UCU) which represents 120,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, researchers & academic-related staff in further and higher education, condemned the Vice-Chancellor for the student arrests in a statement posted on X.

“We condemn Oxford Vice-Chancellor Irene Tracey in the strongest possible terms for bringing in police to violently arrest her own students, engaged in peaceful protest against genocide,” according to UCU.

This follows more than two weeks of protest action from the encampment coalition that has occupied the lawns outside the Pitt Rivers Museum and, more recently, the Radcliffe Camera.

This is a developing story, and will be updated.

Image credit: Rebecca Whalley

Image description: Banner with OA4P demands at University building