Blind student ‘dragged by his ankles’ from Oxford Union debate
The Union charged him with violent misconduct afterwards
A blind student was dragged by his ankles from a debate at the prestigious Oxford Union.
Ghanaian postgrad Ebenezer Azamati said the incident on 17th October left him feeling "unwelcome" in the university and in the UK, and that he was treated as "not being human enough to deserve justice".
The president of the Oxford Union tried to bring disciplinary charges against Azamati afterwards, accusing him of making "aggressive hand gestures", report the Sunday Times.
His defence said "a white blind man would not have been treated in the way he was.” Now, the union have apologised to him and withdrawn the charges.
Azamati was attending a "The house has no confidence in the UK government debate" on 17th October and put a book on an accessible seat by the entrance to reserve it. He went for dinner, and was not let back into the union when he returned.
A video shows him being manhandled and then escorted out of the building after security confronted him.
The Oxford Union president, Brendan McGrath, brought disciplinary charges against Azamati, and banned him from the union for two months.
The charges alleged Azamati behaved violently, and used aggressive gestures.
Helen Mountfield, the principal of Mansfield College, represented Azamati and said he was “not violent but acted in alarm . . . as a blind man who had been assaulted . . . and who feared being pulled to the floor,” according to The Sunday Times.
Other evidence at the appeal hearing said: “Thirty seconds after he sat down, the security guard came in. Five seconds afterwards he started touching Azamati, who was holding onto the bench. Thirty seconds later they were dragging him by his ankles.”
Azamati spoke of distress at his treatment: “In being publicly removed from the Oxford Union Society made me feel unwelcome in the Union, Oxford and even the country. I felt that I was treated as not being human enough to deserve justice and fair treatment.”
The charge of violent misconduct has been withdrawn, and the Oxford Union said they "apologise unreservedly."
However, there are calls for union president McGrath to resign, with a petition launched by Oxford University Africa Society gaining signatures quickly and over 100 people attending a protest on Friday.
Nwamaka Ogbonna, the society's president, told The Guardian: “It should be a safe and inclusive space for everyone.
"They can’t just declare him not guilty and expect this to go away. This is far from being closed – there must be wider institutional change.”
Oxford University initially said they had no control over the Oxford Union.
However, since the story has gained attention, they said on Twitter: "We share the widespread outrage regarding the unacceptable treatment of Ebenezer Azamati," and added they would be pressing the union for answers.