Oxford University Gaza protest campsite dismantled

BBC Demonstrator behind newly-erected fencing outside National History Museum wearing face maskBBC

Protesters say they had no choice but to leave the camp after fencing went up

An encampment outside a museum where students were protesting against the war in Gaza is being dismantled.

A protest camp was set up outside the Museum of Natural History in Oxford on 6 May.

Oxford University fenced off the area on Sunday morning “in preparation for returning it to public use” and to “avoid further damage to the lawn”.

Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) called it a “blatant attempt to intimidate and shut down peaceful protest” and departed the site on Tuesday morning.

One protester told the BBC they had no choice but to leave after having been “trapped” for 48 hours. They also claimed they no longer had access to bathrooms and toilets.

Tractors, vehicles, and workers have since been seen dismantling the camp. The BBC has approached the university for comment on these measures.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 252 others were taken hostage.

More than 37,590 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Madeleine Jane "Garden for Gaza" erected by protesters on Natural History Museum lawnMadeleine Jane

Campaigners worked on the community garden on Monday night and left the site shortly after

Protesters said Oxford University “capitalised” on a “moment of transition” on Sunday while they were off-site preparing to turn part of the camp outside the museum into a community garden.

One accused the university of “spending more time talking about the health of grass and of the lawn than of 40,000 dead Palestinians”.

A university statement said the lawn was an “important space” for “visitors to enjoy and relax in”, and it wanted to “remove any hazards”.

OA4P Tractor in process of digging up camp gardenOA4P

A tractor moved in to dismantle the camp on Tuesday

It was also aiming to prevent damage to its irrigation system, its “protective membrane”, and the museum collections beneath, it claimed.

It said before the planned gardening event campaigners were “informed on several occasions” that it could not go ahead, and so “urgent action” was required.

But OA4P insisted the fences went up “with no prior communication”.

Campaigners, who worked on the community garden on Monday night, said the results were “beautiful”. They left the site shortly after, and footage has been posted on social media of the garden being demolished by a loader tractor.

Fenced-in encampment outside Natural History Museum

The university said it had fenced off the area “in preparation for returning it to public use”

Protesters had called for the university to disclose all finances and overhaul university investment policy.

The institution said it respected their “right to freedom of expression in the form of peaceful protests” and expressed “profound sympathy for those suffering in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank”.

OA4P also started a sit-in at university offices in Wellington Square on 23 May, leading to several arrests.

Other pro-Palestine demonstrators forced the university to cancel some of its students’ end of year exams after buildings were occupied.

Fencing and placards outside pro-Palestine encampment, including "All Eyes on Rafah"

The protest camp was set up on the lawn outside the museum on 6 May

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