A row has broken out after a blind student was allegedly “dragged by his feet” from a debate held by one of Oxford University’s most prestigious societies.
A spokesperson for the Oxford University Africa Society said the man, who they identified as 25-year-old Ebenezer Azamati, had been subjected to “violent, unjust, inhumane, and shameful treatment” whilst trying to reenter a debate held by the Oxford Union, which describes itself as the “world’s most prestigious speaker and debating society”.
It is believed that Azamati, a postgraduate student originally from Ghana, had arrived early at a debate entitled ‘This House has no confidence in HM Government’ on October 17, in order to reserve an accessible seat, as he was worried there would be no provision for those with accessibility requirements at the event.
He put a book on the seat to reserve the space and left for dinner, however was confronted when he returned to the audience before the debate had started.
Video footage of the incident shows Azamati being forcibly removed from his seat, despite resisting the efforts of two men dragging him out of the room.
The incident was first reported in the the university paper, The Oxford Student, in which an eyewitness said: “The whole ordeal looked humiliating and traumatising… the force used was objectively disproportionate – at one point he was being dragged off the bench by his feet while audience members merely looked on.”
The Oxford University Africa Society quickly condemned the incident in the wake of the news, sharing the video on their Facebook page and writing “An injury to one is an injury to all. We stand with Azamati to protest the unjust and gross misconduct of the Oxford Union.
“We will not be silent. We will not turn a blind eye. We will be seen. We will be heard.”
The society launched a petition, which at the time of writing has garnered more than 800 signatures, and called on Brendan McGrath, the president of the Union, to resign from his position, after he “personally lodged a complaint against Mr Azamati for violent behaviour.”
On Friday evening, members of the Africa Society, as well as supporters both at and outside of the university, held a protest in order to “demand justice’ for Azamati.
The Union held a disciplinary committee meeting on Saturday, The Sunday Times reported, during which Azamati reportedly said that his public removal from the room had left him feeling “unwelcome in the Union, Oxford and even the country.
“I felt that I was treated as not being human enough to deserve justice and fair treatment,” he added.
It was alleged that Azamati had behaved in a violent manner by thrusting an arm out and gesturing in an aggressive manner as he was being removed.
According to a statement posted online by the African Society, McGrath withdrew his complaint following the hearing and had apologised “unreservedly for the distress and any reputational damage which the publication of the charge may have caused him [Azamati].”
HuffPost UK has contacted both the Oxford University Africa Society and Oxford Union for further comment.