Oxford was a centre of resistance during the day of action for Palestine on Wednesday.
Palestine solidarity activists organised a whole day of action—from student walkouts to workplace protests.
Around 50 students walked out at midday, marching down the streets of Oxford chanting for a free Palestine. The march went from Weston Library to Barclays Bank, with students taking over the streets.
Oxford student Joumana said, “We need more direct action. Oxford university has obvious steps it could take. It needs to review all of its financing of Israeli companies. And it hasn’t supported Palestinian students at all. Even in the smallest of steps, it’s falling short.”
“The response to Ukraine was 180 degrees in a different direction. The university is showing that it doesn’t care about Palestinian lives.”
A student from the Palestine Society said, “Actions that demand to be seen and maintain visibility is crucial. When our protests block the streets, it forces people to look.
“But we need to push beyond a ceasefire for Palestinian liberation. Ceasefire is only the first step. The bombing is part of the maintenance of Western imperialism in the Middle East.”
Oxford held a Palestine organising assembly in the run-up to the day of action. Domenica said, “The organising assembly in Oxford helped keep the momentum going. It connected students from an array of colleges and stressed the need for all of Oxford to come out together.”
“It brought together a collection of people. The assembly helped collectively organise and definitely helped in getting more people to the protests.”
Another student said, “The assembly helped to build this protest, especially with getting younger students, and construct the whole day of action in Oxford. We need as many people as possible on board with the cause.
“The organising assembly helped to give people a voice in the conversation. Cross city solidarity is growing.”
Around 100 protesters attended a UCU rally for Palestine in Radcliffe Square. The rally was a powerful gathering in solidarity with Palestine, with speeches from UCU members and testimonies from Palestinian students.
Teige, UCU Oxford branch committee officer and one of the organisers of the rally, said, “Unions are the power of working people. And so workplace action is such an important action for working people.
“Trade unions need to step up and pressure the government to end their complicity in Israel’s genocide and reverse the anti-humanitarian position of defunding Unwra.”
“With the ICJ ruling, workplaces should have the confidence to connect and speak up.”
A Palestinian student at the UCU rally gave a testimony, saying, “Since October 7th, Israel has killed 100 members of my family. There is not a single family that has not lost people.
“Families are unable to grieve because of the constant fear of losing someone else. Palestinians don’t need aid or charity, they need collective resistance.”
Around 20 gathered at an NUJ journalists’ union vigil next to Radcliffe Square. Anna Wagstaff, Oxford NUJ branch secretary, told Socialist Worker, “We are here today to remember 160 journalists killed in Gaza since the start of the war.”
“That’s more than 10 percent of all Gaza. Journalists are being targeted by Israel. We stand in solidarity with them.”
Dana, a UCU rep at Oxford Brookes University, organised a rally outside her workplace. She told Socialist Worker, “Around 20 people attended the demonstration at Brookes. We thought we had to come out and protest for Palestine.
“At the organising assembly I met other people at Brookes who wanted to do something. We set up a WhatsApp group and the Brookes rally developed from that. I was out on the last set of strikes at Brookes and now I’m out for Palestine.”
Health workers held a vigil outside the Warneford Hospital. Ian McKendrick is a member of the Oxford Unison union health branch. “Our members have been horrified to see the systematic destruction of hospitals and healthcare workers in Gaza,” he said.
Postal workers showed brilliant support for the day of action. They took dozens of selfies of themselves holding signs demanding a ceasefire and showing support for Palestine.
Keith Hamilton, an area union rep for the CWU, was central to the action. He told Socialist Worker that he’d spoken to dozens of people about Palestine in the run-up to the day of action.
“I explained my take on the situation to them and they responded,” he said. “I said what was happening in Palestine was a slaughter. Thousands of children are being killed by a doctrine of collective punishment.
Keith printed up placards for the day and, outside work time, he took lots of pictures of his colleagues holding them. “I was taken back by the size of the response,” he said. “It all goes to show that if you talk politics in the workplace, you can make a difference.”
The day concluded with a march from Manzil Way to Bonn Square in the centre of Oxford. Around 125 protesters took over the roads, blocking traffic. Chants for a free Palestine rang throughout in a militant and angry protest.
Robin Bennett, a Green Party councillor in Oxford gave a speech, saying, “We have to be angry. We have to be enraged.
“We have to channel that anger into a movement that can’t be ignored. Starmer and Sunak are banking on us giving up. But we won’t give up. Every major social change has come from struggles from ordinary people.”
Agnes, member of Oxford Socialist Worker Student Society who attended the march, said that for the movement to win “organisation is key”. “We are not outnumbered, we are just out-organised,” Agnes said.
“Capitalism, colonialism and imperialism must be smashed. That can only happen if we are organised.”
But it’s only a change of language
Leeds students have occupied too