On Wednesday, February 8, Palestine solidarity activists and students at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), Spain protested against Israeli ambassador to Spain, Rodica Radian-Gordon’s presence on campus. Radian-Gordon was participating in “The Oslo Accords: A Commemoration,” a conference organized by the Department of General Linguistics, Arabic, Hebrew, Basque, and East Asian Studies of the Faculty of Philology of UCM, held to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the Oslo Accords that advocate a “two-state solution” for the occupied Palestinian territories.
The visit of the representative of the State of Israel, whose army killed 35 Palestinians in January this year—the deadliest month for Palestinians since 2015, following a bloody 2022 in which 170 Palestinians were killed at the hands of Israeli armed forces and illegal settlements and apartheid policies were expanded—provoked the indignation of the student collectives and Palestinian solidarity groups, who called for a boycott of the conference and a demonstration outside the conference venue.
The protesters were confronted by the police and the university security service and allege that a man pointed a pistol or taser gun at several people in front of the door of the assembly hall where the conference was taking place, as can be seen in videos provided by the protesters. They further claim that dozens of riot police entered the university, identified the demonstrators, and took two activists into custody.
Wednesday’s action had been planned at an assembly held a few days ago in which student organizations and people from pro-Palestine organizations met in order to chart a centralized response to the university’s invitation to Radian-Gordon. “At first we thought of protesting also against the visit of the Palestinian ambassador, Husni Abdel Wahed, which was scheduled for the previous day, as we considered it an exercise of equidistance,” some protesters explained to El Salto. Finally they decided to concentrate their forces on repudiating the presence of the Israeli ambassador at the university.
“We had planned a demonstration outside the faculty,” they added. “We had also purchased several tickets to protest inside the assembly hall and boycott the Zionist ambassador’s speech.”
The groups report that since they announced the call for a protest on social media, the event organizers and university authorities tried to dissuade them. When the activists arrived on Wednesday at 9 o’clock, there were already police around the building; the activists were forced to wait at a certain distance from the department and were not allowed to approach the assembly hall.
🛑Hoy, diferentes agrupaciones universitarias hemos acompañado al movimiento palestino para mostrar nuestro rechazo a la charla de la embajadora sionista de Israel.
La respuesta de las fuerzas de seguridad no te sorprenderá 🧵👇 pic.twitter.com/6SDFZVBgpz
— A.U. La Chispa💥 (@LaChispaUCM) February 8, 2023
“When ticketed audience members tried to enter, we found that those with Arab surnames, or those who were known to be Palestinian rights activists, were marked in red. We think that to identify the latter, they had to investigate the roster,” explained one of the participants in the protest who was arrested during the action.
“We arrived at 9 o’clock, and people from Palestinian rights organizations were already gathered there,” stated Paula, a member of the university association La Chispa, one of the organizing groups of the protest. “At 10:30 a.m., when the ambassador was about to speak, it was decided that everyone would go in.”
When the first activists arrived, they were confronted by a man who pointed a gun at them, as can be seen in a video that the activists have provided to El Salto. “The weapon has a yellow sticker that made us think that it could be a taser gun, but we have been investigating, and we cannot confirm whether it was this type of weapon or something else,” another participant told El Salto. According to those present, the man entered the assembly hall after another person, who could have been an undercover policeman, intervened.
Palestinians Are Not Liars: Confronting the Violence of Media Delegitimization
“Within two minutes there was a large deployment of riot police, the university’s private security—a lot of private security,” Paula recounted. “There was quite a bit of confrontation and we were surrounded on both staircases. They pulled us out one by one until we decided to leave.” She estimates the number of riot police vans that intervened in the faculty at six. Once outside, she explained how about eight riot police put them against the wall and proceeded to identify the activists. The police also took two protesters into custody.
Spanish police attacked pro-Palestinian activists while protesting the presence of the Israeli ambassador at Complutense University of Madrid. pic.twitter.com/c12wTexp0X
— Kuffiya (@Kuffiyateam) February 11, 2023
“We spent about five hours at the police station, and upon leaving, they first made me sign a document charging me with disobedience, resistance, and contempt of authority,” said Paula, one of the detainees. Shortly afterwards, after receiving a phone call, the same officer added a charge of minor injuries to the document. The same thing happened to the other detainee, a Palestinian activist, to whose original complaint both a charge of minor injuries and a charge of threats were added. Both have been released from detention, and their cases are in the hands of lawyers.
Members of La Chispa, the organization to which Paula belongs, later met with the rector, who claimed to know nothing about what had happened and claimed that the presence of the riot police, who need the rector’s authorization to enter the campus, was due to a complaint that a person had been seen wielding a gun. Both Paula and the other witnesses with whom El Salto has been able to speak stressed that the police had targeted the demonstrators; on the other hand, no news has emerged reporting the police questioning or detaining the man who threatened the protesters with the gun.
La Chispa emphasizes that repression and criminalization of protest is becoming “increasingly common in our universities.” In conversation with El Salto, Paula stated that this was the second time that the police entered the campus in the span of a few weeks, after the heavy police presence during the appointment of the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, as Distinguished Alumna of the Complutense, a decision that was protested by a broad front of students and faculty of the university.
The activist groups also criticized the university authorities for, in addition to the police repression, implementing racial profiling in preventing ticketed audience members from entering the conference. “We find it strongly unacceptable that a public university would give in to racist Zionist criteria and prevent access to X or Y person upon racial or political lines. If they want to ban entry to the general public, then they should hold the conference in a private lecture hall,” they said in conversation with El Salto.
Some of those who were prevented from entering will file a formal complaint and ask for explanations as to who authorized the police to enter the university.
(El Salto) by Sarah Babiker
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)
- Click to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)