It is ‘outrageous’ that King’s College London (KCL) singled out pro-Palestinian student activists and blocked their access cards as a ‘security measure’ ahead of the Queen’s visit to the campus on March 19.
Mehreen, one of the students who was barred, said: ‘I got my ID card. I tapped it on the barrier and it wouldn’t work. The barrier wouldn’t open.
‘I tapped the ID card about three times … by the third time I knew that this was intentional.’
She, along with several campus groups, now accuse the police and KCL of ‘profiling’ and going after them for staging peaceful pro-Palestinian protests.
They had earlier launched a campaign denouncing the college’s ties to Israeli institutions that work with arms companies.
Mehreen posted a video showing a campus security guard explaining that her access was blocked at the request of the Metropolitan Police. Others also shared videos of their ID cards not working.
It all happened last Tuesday when Queen Elizabeth, along with the Duchess of Cambridge, arrived at one of London’s oldest universities to open a new building, the revamped Bush House.
The ban reportedly included all campuses, libraries, cafes and workshops, and, according to several groups on campus, at least 10 ‘politically active’ students were affected.
The explanation Kings’ College gave was that it ‘had to minimise movement through the buildings’ because the Queen’s visit required ‘the highest level of security.’
At least ten King’s College London students said they were blocked from attending classes, exams and work on 19 March due to their political activity.
The university’s student-led group Action Palestine Society said another of the students affected had tried tapping her student ID to enter campus three times, but her card failed to work.
‘So I went to the receptionist and said: “Have I been profiled?” And he said: “yes”.’
When confronting the Head of Security, the APS member was told students’ information had been passed to the Metropolitan Police and that the police requested the university deny the students access.
‘Vague justifications offered by security suggested that the Metropolitan Police had advised the university to ban all students that could be considered a security threat,’ a joint statement from KCL Justice for Cleaners, a workers’ rights campaign for cleaning staff, and APS, said.
‘Security told us they had been monitoring students who attend protests on campus.
‘They actually took pictures of us from CCTV and identified us through our student IDs and then decided who would be allowed access and who wouldn’t be allowed access,’ the statement said.
‘We had an event today which demanded the highest level of security and we had to minimise movement through buildings for security reasons,’ King’s College London said on Twitter. ‘At times some of our buildings were not accessible.’
The students affected have lodged a formal complaint and are waiting for KCL to give them a direct response before taking further action.
Students demonstrated at the Strand campus on 20 March in response to the escalated security and alleged surveillance, and demanded answers as to why some had been banned.
They unfurled banners, waved the Palestinian flag, fired off red and purple flares and chanted: ‘If we don’t get it, shut it down,’ referring to campus access.
The demonstration coincided with ‘Apartheid Off Campus’, a national day of action for students to call on their universities to divest from companies associated with Israel.
‘It’s highly inappropriate and disgusting of KCL to profile so many Muslim women of colour only a few days after the Christchurch shooting,’ Action Palestine Society said during the protest, emphasising that the alleged crackdown has only made those student activists impacted more determined to have their voices heard.
‘We will not allow our university to silence us for standing for social justice,’ APS asserted.
‘It is absolutely disgusting that this university makes money off Desmond Tutu’s legacy of being an anti-apartheid activist and at the same time profiles and shuts down students who do the same today.’
The KCL Students Union stated: ‘As your elected officers, we stand in solidarity with students affected by the surveillance and disruption to education that has occurred today as a result of the official opening of Bush House.
‘We were made aware that a minimum of ten students, most, but not all, of whom were students of colour and part of politically active societies or campaigns, had apparently been identified as security risks and subsequently had their access cards temporarily deactivated on security grounds.
‘Due to the security presence on all KCL campuses, these students were thus denied access to exams, work shifts, classes and assessed presentations during that period of time. Students were also informed that their names had been passed to the police.
‘Furthermore, lift and foot access to parts of Bush House was also restricted without adequate information being provided to students, preventing some students from accessing specialist computer facilities which they needed to complete academic work and disrupting their education at a critical period close to their deadlines and examinations.
‘It is concerning if students are being placed under surveillance by their university – this is a place of learning, not a police state, and surveillance has a chilling effect on students’ freedom of expression.
‘It is especially concerning to us if students of colour are disproportionately being surveilled and profiled as security threats.
‘It is also concerning if access to facilities critical for academic work has been denied without proper information being given to students.
‘We unequivocally condemn surveillance, and also serious disruption to education without adequately informing students beforehand.
‘As your elected officers, we have reached out to the university to express our outrage and demand an explanation. We will be updating you as soon as we can.’
- Students at more than 30 UK universities took action on their campuses on Wednesday 20th March ‘to protest their institutions’ complicity in Israel’s violations of human rights’, said a press release by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).
The national day of action occured during the internationally-observed Israeli Apartheid Week, and as part of PSC’s ongoing ‘Apartheid Off Campus’ campaign, which ‘seeks to highlight how universities’ investment and partnership policies tacitly support and enable Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and human rights.’
According to PSC, one example being highlighted by students is the University of Manchester’s ongoing investment in the company Caterpillar, ‘which supplies the armoured bulldozers for the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian homes, schools, olive groves and communities.’
Another example cited is King’s College London, ‘which has established a partnership with the Israeli Institute of Technology in Haifa, known as the Technion’.
‘This institution collaborates with arms companies on technological endeavours which have seen the creation of remote-controlled bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes, as well as the electronic surveillance system used for Israel’s illegal wall in the West Bank,’ stated PSC.
‘As students, we do not want our tuition fees invested in war and apartheid,’ said Emilia Micunovic, chair of the BDS campaign at the University of Manchester ‘and we should have the right to a voice in our institutions’ investment and partnership policies.
‘We reject many UK universities’ hypocritical and shallow attempts to appear “socially responsible” whilst funding, facilitating or supporting Israel’s military occupation.’
Huda Ammori, campaigns officer of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘Israeli Apartheid Week is an opportunity for us to amplify the voices of the Palestinian people and strengthen our movement which stands in full solidarity with them.
‘The global community has a responsibility to hold Israel to account for its criminal actions, and universities are no exception. Students are doing vital work in highlighting complicity with Israeli apartheid on their campuses.’