King’s College London launches ‘urgent investigation’ after pro-Israel event ‘attacked by pro-Palestine group’

Organiser says KCL Action Palestine threw chairs, smashed windows and set off fire alarms as threat of 'real fire' grew

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Thursday 21 January 2016 14:36 GMT
Student Rights fire alarm

King’s College London (KCL) has announced it is undertaking an “urgent investigation” after the building had to be evacuated on Tuesday night when a pro-Israel talk turned violent, reportedly at the hands of a pro-Palestinian group.

Esther Enfield, of the KCL Israel Society, had organised an event which played host to Ami Ayalon, former head of the Israeli secret service Shin Bet and commander-in-chief of the navy.

Enfield issued a lengthy statement in the aftermath of the incident, which began: “Never did I ever think that I would have to write a post like this but, in life, sometimes you do things that you never expect.”

Describing how KCL is meant to be “one of the global universities in the world,” she claimed to have been assaulted when demonstrators from the KCL Action Palestine (KCLAP) group stormed the event - attended by more than 200 people - and began throwing chairs, smashing windows, and setting off the fire alarm more than 15 times.

She added how four police vehicles and more than 15 officers attend the scene to “protect the people inside the room,” and continued: “It was never inevitable that it would turn violent...not to the point where my event had to be stopped and the building evacuated because college security and the police were so scared they would light a real fire, and that we wouldn’t know because of the false alarms.”

In response to the accusations, KCLAP said it “categorically condemned” any aggression that took place at the Israel Society’s Ami Ayalon event.

The group said: “KCLAP had planned to challenge Ami Ayalon and inform the audience of his complicity in the torture of Palestinians as former head of the Shin Bet and the problems surrounding his current views - as is within our rights and detailed on our blog.

“Our intention was to attend the event and shed light on Ayalon’s crimes and views through deliberation.”

KCLAP did, however, acknowledge the event “escalated into a disruption” which “was beyond our control and not incited by any member of our committee.” The group said: “KCLAP is not connected and does not control the actions of external attendees.

“Some of our members protested after they were left out and people were arbitrarily selected to go into the event, we refute any involvement with what took place beyond this.”

Speaking with MailOnline, Universities Minister Jo Johnson described how Britain and Israel “share many important academic links” and insisted that speakers “must be able to address meetings peacefully.”

He told the site: “Our universities should be safe spaces for students to expand their minds, and there can be no justification for violent intimidation that curtails free speech.”

His comments have come just days after the Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) 2016 revealed how there is “an epidemic” among Britain’s universities - particularly among students’ unions - when it comes to the stifling of free speech. KCL was named as being among one of the most censored in Britain.

A Met Police spokesman confirmed officers attended the scene after reports that demonstrators had gained access into the building, but added how no arrests had been made, reported MailOnline.

KCL announced on Wednesday that Professor Ed Byrne, president and principal, has appointed Ian Creagh, head of administration and college secretary, to conduct “an urgent investigation” into the events surrounding the talk.

The university added how it wants “to establish what happened and what action might need to be taken as a consequence,” and concluded: “Professor Byrne will also be writing to students to remind them violent protest is totally unacceptable and we expect them to be tolerant and respectful of others’ views and opinions.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in