Students at the London School of Economics have been embroiled in a fight over the university's Palestinian Society protest against Israel's human rights record.
Houghton Street, part of LSE's campus, was the scene of a violent altercation on Monday as a protest by the LSE’s student Palestine Society came to blows after water balloons were hurled at the protesters.
After the attack on the protesters, which was captured on film, a fight broke out with one participant being punched in the face. Protesters claim that those who threw the balloons were members or supporters of the Students’ Union Jewish Society, although leaders of that organisation have condemned the attack.
It began 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 “ID” or “papers.” As the protest continued, certain Jewish students complained of “harassment and intimidation” as access to St. Clements was supposedly blocked.
Palestine Society members taking part in the protest claimed while students were asked for their “papers,” only protesters were physically stopped from entering the building.
Niamh Hayes, a member of Palestine Society, said: “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 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.
“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."
Aimee Riese, president of the LSE Students’ Union Israel Society said the society also condemned the violence but added, "We do not however, condemn the anger that caused this.
"Palestine Society are mocking and simplifying the complexities of life in the region. LSE students on this campus are victims on both side of this conflict. Jewish and Israeli students should not have to feel targeted and intimidated on campus.”
The protest and ensuing violence comes just hours before a controversial talk hosted by the Students’ Union Labour Society by Labour Friends of Israel’s John Woodcock due to take place at the LSE this evening.
Tensions on campus have been high since students on the LSE Athletics Union Ski Trip were criticised for taking part in an “anti-semitic attack” in January.