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University begins to clear Pitt Rivers encampment

Oxford University is clearing the Natural History Museum lawn, where Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) built their first encampment, after fencing it off on Sunday morning. The University stated plans to reopen the lawn for public use and said in a statement that it is in communication with the encampment, although this was denied by OA4P.

A video posted by OA4P shows a bulldozer removing the flowerbeds built by the encampment as part of its memorial garden.

The University said they are taking “proactive measures to protect the lawn” after OA4P scheduled a Community Gardening Day event, with plans to build raised beds on the site. Metal fences were erected around the perimeter of the lawn, but members of the encampment still slept there overnight, according to a statement by OA4P on Monday morning.

A University spokesperson told Cherwell: “Over the last week the encampment members were informed on several occasions that there could be no gardening and urgent action was required when they advertised today’s event yesterday morning.”

Signs around the encampment explained that the site was “temporarily closed on public safety grounds and to prevent further damage to university property” and prohibited unauthorised access. They state that property on the lawn will be held in storage until 22nd July 2024, then disposed of.

Protesters are currently still able to enter the site as long as they acknowledge the “health and safety risks”.

In response, OA4P stated: “OA4P is deeply troubled by this blatant attempt to intimidate and shut down peaceful protest, which defies the University’s recently stated commitment to good-faith dialogue.”

Following the removal of flowerbeds at 6:30am this morning, OA4P further stated that they are “especially appalled that the University chose to prioritise the health and visual aesthetics of grass above the wellbeing of its students, its commitment to the right to peaceful protest, and its moral obligation to act against the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people by the state of Israel.”

The University expressed concerns over the safety of the site, as well as potential damage to the irrigation system: “This land is for everyone at the University and our visitors, and we are taking these steps in the interest of public safety and preserving our own property and collections.”

OA4P said their plans for the lawn were made with “a detailed understanding of the sensitive areas of the land with a commitment to the health and safety of the area.”

The Radcliffe Camera encampment has not been approached by University staff.

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