King's College London is investigating an incident on its campus which saw an Israeli society meeting, attended by Israel's former secret service chief, "attacked" by Palestine activists.
Ami Ayalon was a guest speaker at the Tuesday night meeting, which was arranged by the KCL and LSE Israeli societies. But the event soon turned sour after it was reportedly gatecrashed by pro-Palestine demonstrators.
According to those present, chairs were thrown, windows smashed, while student Esther Endfield said she was assaulted, blaming the attack on student group KCL Action Palestine.
— Student Rights (@Student_Rights) January 20, 2016
"Protests by KCL action Palestine at this event was inevitable but it was never inevitable that it would turn violent," she said.
Endfield reported chairs being thrown across a room, and police being called to quell the violence.
In a video Endfield posted to her Facebook page, protesters can be heard chanting: "Brick by brick, wall by wall, the Israeli apartheid has to fall. Free Palestine!"
"Two police cars and two police vans along with 15 plus officers came to protect the people inside the room," she said. "I was crying hysterically for over half an hour because I was so terrified.
"When did I become so unsafe in one of the global universities in the world that we can no longer hold an event without being scared for our safety.
Endfield added: "I have just reported being assaulted to the police, which is also being investigated under a hate crime."
Another video, taken by student Russell Langer, shows protesters banging on the windows of the university.
KCL Action Palestine posted a statement on its website to "clarify" the evening's events, and denied any involvement in the violence.
"[We] would like to categorically condemn any aggression that took place at the Israel Society 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 through dialogue.
"That the event escalated into a disruption was beyond our control and not incited by any member of our committee. KCLAP is not connected and does not control the actions of external attendees. As stated we do not condone any aggressive reaction on our campuses. Some of our members protested after they were left out and people were arbitrarily selected to go into the event, and we refute any involvement with what took place beyond this."
The university released a statement confirming an investigation is underway.
"Universities create environments in which debate from all sides on issues of political, scientific, moral, ethical and religious significance is possible, and King’s is no exception.
“The safety of our students, staff and the general public is paramount to us and we are committed to acting as a responsible organisation.
“Professor Ed Byrne, President & Principal, has appointed Ian Creagh, Head of Administration and College Secretary, to conduct an urgent investigation of the events around last night’s talk to establish what happened and what action might need to be taken as a consequence.
“Professor Byrne will also be writing to students to remind them that violent protest is totally unacceptable and that we expect them to be tolerant and respectful of others’ views and opinions.”
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: "Officers from Westminster are investigating an allegation of assault and criminal damage at a protest.
"Officers attended and found that a small number of those protesting had gained access to the building where they continued their protest. The demonstration concluded at approximately 6.45pm.
"A 20-year-old woman reported she had been struck on the hand by a protestor. No injuries were caused. It was also reported that damage had been caused to a door. No arrests were made."
The Union of Jewish Students added: "There can be no justification for the events last night at KCL. The KCLSU Israel society were hosting an event about peace and were greeted by violence and intimidation.
"The fact that the police had to be called by the university in order to protect students from fellow students is a disgrace."
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