by News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Some 100 pro-Palestinian protesters storm lecture hall at University College London during Friends of Israel event • Jewish students describe "terrifying moments" until police arrive • Event was "a whirlwind of hate," StandWithUs official says.
Pro-Palestinian supporters held a violent anti-Israel protest rally at University College London on Thursday and laid siege to a lecture hall where Jewish students were attending a Friends of Israel event. Police were called to the university after the Jewish students were trapped in the hall by protesters descending on the building.
One student described "terrifying moments" as the group barricaded itself inside the lecture hall as about 100 protesters started chanting anti-Israel slogans and banging on the doors. Police are investigating claims by two female Jewish students who said they were assaulted during the incident, British media reported over the weekend.
The Evening Standard quoted Devora Khafi, campus director for pro-Israel group StandWithUs U.K., as saying the event was "a whirlwind of hate."
Israeli activist Hen Mazzig, who was the event's guest speaker, uploaded a video of the incident to his Facebook page, in which protesters could be heard hammering on the doors and windows, yelling "free Palestine" and "murderers."
Mazzig, a former IDF officer and former StandWithUs education director, had been invited to speak by UCL Friends of Israel about his humanitarian work in the West Bank, the Telegraph said.
A rattled Mazzig says on the video: "The situation is really out of control. We're hiding in a room and there's protesters outside. ... I don't think that even in my days in the IDF it was bad as it is right now. It's really scary. I hear that they've been attacking some girls, Jewish girls that came to hear me speak. It's crazy, it's really crazy."
When the Jewish students were finally able to leave the building, with help from security and police, an angry crowd can be heard yelling "shame" at them.
"I had to be rushed out of the event at UCL with security. The campus was the war zone and the streets are the safe place. I'm out. My God," Mazzig tweeted later.
Student Rights official Elliot Miller told the Standard: "It was a very intimidating atmosphere. UCL staff were overrun and before police came there were clashes. Pro-Palestinian activists banged on the doors of the room where the event was taking place and tried to jump through the windows. We were all escorted out by police and I felt very intimidated and upset. Students were crying and a few had panic attacks."
A spokeswoman for UCL Friends of Israel, which organized the event, said it had been "seriously compromised."
"Police were forced to escort attendees out of the building for their safety, amongst other ongoing proactive security measures," she told the newspaper. "It goes without saying that moving forward, a concerted effort is required to safeguard students' freedom of self-expression and freedom of speech in an environment where debate and dialogue should ensue without threat or fear."
A spokesman for the university's Friends of Palestine Society denied the group had organized the protest and said the Jewish students' claims they had been trapped were "untrue."
A spokesman for the Met Police confirmed they had been called to the Gower Street building at University College London at 7 p.m.
"Officers spoke to security at the university who were happy to let to demonstration go ahead on its grounds. They provided a policing presence during the demonstration. Police remained at the venue until the meeting ended safely. Following this, a woman made an allegation of common assault to officers and this is currently investigated by Camden police," he said.
A UCL spokesman told the Standard: "On Oct. 27, we did all we could to ensure that the UCL Friends of Israel Society event could go ahead at UCL, working with our security team and the Metropolitan Police. It was widely advertised and open to the public, and as result a small but noisy group of protesters attended and occupied the rooms where the event was originally meant to take place.
"UCL Security found an alternative location and ensured the event went ahead safely. We regret protesters took measures to try to prevent the event from happening but stress that the protest was non-violent. We are aware that the Metropolitan Police attended following accusations of assault and support them fully in their investigations.
"As this was a public event, it is unclear how many UCL students were present, but we are instigating an inquiry and we will take appropriate disciplinary action where there is clear evidence that students may have breached our disciplinary regulations."
The Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned the protesters as a "hate-filled mob" who support "the worst kind of extremism in the Middle East," the Telegraph said.
"We deplore the aggressive and intimidating protests which disrupted a student event in UCL," Board vice president Marie van der Zyl said. "It is disgraceful that in a society which values free speech, students at a top U.K. university cannot host an open event without being harassed."
She said the board was planning to raise the issue with the home secretary in a meeting on Monday.
News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
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