Houghton Street was the scene of a violent altercation Monday, as a protest by the London School of Economics Students’ Union Palestine Society came to blows after water balloons were hurled at the protesters.
After the attack on the protesters, a fight broke out with one participant being punched in the face. Protesters claim that those who threw the balloons were members and/or supporters of the Students’ Union Jewish Society, although leaders of that organisation have condemned the attack.
It started as members of the Palestine Society formed a mock checkpoint outside of the St. Clements Building. Students were stopped before entering the building and asked by protesters for “I.D.” or “papers.” As the protest continued, certain Jewish students complained of “harassment and intimidation” as access to St. Clements was “blocked.”
Palestine Society members taking part in the protest claimed that while students were asked for their “papers,” only protesters were physically stopped from entering the building.
Niamh Hayes, a member of Palestine Society, said that “we are only trying to recreate the conditions Palestinians have to face on a day-to-day basis.”
Soon after making those comments, a group of counter-protesters ran down Houghton Street screaming “death to Israel” launching water-filled balloons at the protest. After soaking the protesters, they retreated with the Palestine Society members following.
Quickly a brawl broke out with a member of the Palestine Society protest punching a counter-protester in the face and various skirmishes began taking over Houghton Street.
Soon after the initial violence, members of both sides tried to settle the violence, with LSE Security cordoning off the enraged protesters and counter-protesters.
LSE Security had previously requested that the Palestine Society refrain from preventing students from passing through the mock wall, but the checks were continued.
Students’ Union General Secretary, Alex Peters-Day, said in a statement “The safety and welfare of all our students is, and will maintain to be, our utmost priority as a Students’ Union.” Peters-Day continued, “Whilst I welcome a diversity of opinion; actions such as these undo a lot of the good work that has been done in creating and maintaining a dialogue between students and groups on campus”
Community and Welfare Officer Lukas Slothuus condemned the violence stating that it is “ridiculous” and “disgusting.” Slothuus also went on to say that prior to this event, “the protest has been quite peaceful” but that the actions Monday “do not promote dialogue on campus.”
Aimee Riese, President of the LSE Students’ Union Israel Society said “LSESU Israel Society condemns all violence that was seen today. We do not however, condemn the anger that caused this. Palestine Society are mocking and simplifying the complexities of life in the region.” Riese continued, “LSE students on this campus are victims on both side of this conflict. Jewish and Israeli students should not have feel targeted and intimidated on campus.”
The Students’ Union claims in a statement on its website that “the Students’ Union believes in the right to peaceful protest but condemns the violence.” The statement went on to say “whilst peacefully re-enacting an Israeli checkpoint [as part of the annual event Israeli Apartheid Week] and talking to students about the issue, a small group of organised individuals ran towards members of the LSESU Palestine Society and threw water bombs which hit several students and knocked over property of the Palestine Society. As a result a physical altercation broke out between individuals at the scene. LSE Security were at the scene instantly.”
The protest was part of the Palestine Society’s “Israeli Apartheid Week”.
Photos of the incident can be found here.
More details will be added as they become available.