Met Police arrest five protestors outside UCL encampment following counter protest

Protesters were also arrested under the Terrorism Act


Protesters and counter-protesters clashed at a protest outside UCL over the bank holiday weekend in an escalation of tensions on campus, with five arrests made on Saturday.

The Telegraph reports that one man was arrested for spitting on the ground in front of a group of Jewish counter-protesters and reportedly telling them to “go back to Poland”.

Another four members of the pro-Palestine camp were arrested over a banner that they displayed, according to Scotland Yard.

The clashes over the weekend followed the erection of an encampment at UCL last Thursday, which marked an escalation in the months-long pro-Palestine movement at the university.

The protest on Saturday also involved many pro-Palestine supporters who were not students or members of the encampment, with roughly 100 demonstrators rallying outside the university.

They were challenged by a group of 50 or so pro-Israel supporters, who stood across the street from UCL’s main gates.

The Metropolitan Police deployed 40 officers to maintain order between the two sides. Members of both protest groups were held back by police on different occasions in an attempt to prevent direct conflict.

Still, there were moments of confrontation, including a woman shouting “Long life to Hamas” at the group of pro-Israel protesters.

In response, three counter-protesters crossed the street waving Israeli flags and signs reading “Hamas are terrorists” but were grabbed by police.

Police also intervened in response to a banner displayed by pro-Palestine demonstrators, arresting four supporters under Section 13 of the Terrorism Act, according to Camden Friends of Palestine.

The group, which has marched with UCL Action for Palestine in the past, criticised the arrests.

They said: “We cannot let symbols of peace and freedom be misrepresented as symbols of terrorism when the real terror is the genocide that is taking place.”

Previous protests have included walkouts, ribbon-tying, and the occupation of a room on campus. Most of these protests have been organised by UCL Action for Palestine, which has issued a list of ten demands to UCL management, including calling for an immediate ceasefire and the full divestment from companies involved in the Israel-Gaza situation.

The new encampment at UCL is among a growing number across UK universities, including Manchester, Leeds and Bristol, following similar high-profile demonstrations among US universities.

A UCL spokesperson said: “We continue to have a small protest with tents on our campus. This has so far been peaceful and in line with our codes of conduct. The normal business of the university has been going ahead as usual.
“We are, however, also aware there have been protests outside our university on public streets which have been organised by external groups.”

A UCL spokesperson said: “Like many other public institutions, we continue to have a protest with tents on our campus, and are regularly speaking with the organisers and monitoring the situation.

“We are managing this, along with other protests, in line with our legal duty and commitment to uphold freedom of speech within the law, whilst ensuring all members of our community are safe and enabling the normal business of the university to go head, including our education and research activities.

To minimise any disruption, we are currently asking our staff and students to show their ID cards at the gates of our Bloomsbury campus.

“Separate to UCL, we are also aware there have been a number of protests outside our university on public streets, which have been organised by external groups.”

Metropolitan Police was contacted for comment. 

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Featured image via @abdullahbaileyphoto