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  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visit open Bush House at King's College London, in London, Britain March 19, 2019.

    Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visit open Bush House at King's College London, in London, Britain March 19, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 March 2019

King's College London denied access to pro-Palestine student activists from attending classes or taking exams because of the Queen's visit. 

Pro-Palestine students at London’s King’s College (KCL) were denied access to the university over security concerns during the Queen’s visit.

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The students said that they were barred from attending classes or sitting for exams because of their political beliefs. A senior university official said that the students were blacklisted based on CCTV footage.

The Queen visited KCL Tuesday to open a refurbished building at the university’s Strand Campus in central London. But a student Asif Khapedi was barred from sitting in a compulsory exam six kilometers away in south London.

"Considering that the exam is in an hour and if I don't sit it I potentially have to resit the entire year, it was very, very distressing for me," he told Middle East Eye. He was eventually allowed to sit for the exam but the stress just before the exam affected him and the test.

He is a member of Action Palestine student society. Ten other students also came forward with claims of being banned from campus, libraries, cafes, exams, and classes.

"The students affected by this are all core organizers of campaigns that have established themselves as effective, successful and resistant to university apathy and reaction,” the students said in a statement.

"The racialized and gendered securitization of campus also cannot be ignored; the affected students are predominantly women of color."

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King’s College issued a statement saying, “We had an event today which demanded the highest level of security and we had to minimize movement through buildings for security reasons. At times some of our buildings were not accessible.”

Khapedi said "they've come up with this statement recently that they only blocked access to certain buildings because it was a high-security event, but the reality is that I was nowhere near there. You blocked my access everywhere."

According to the students, this obstruction is a restriction on freedom of speech.

On Monday, these students crashed into a meeting of the college council to deliver an open letter demanding the university sever ties with Techion, an Israeli research institute with close links to the arms trade. King’s College compiled a list of those student activists.

Richard Kent, director of campus operations, responding to a student said, "It was just produced on the grounds that you're all ... there are a number of protesters who've been visible at a number of protests over last year, two years, and you were identified because you were on CCTV."

"It is concerning if students are being placed under surveillance by their university – this is a place of learning, not a police state, and surveillance has a chilling effect on students' freedom of expression," the student union of the university said.

"We've seen a rise in politically active students — especially those campaigning on Palestine, Prevent and Divestment — become targets for disciplinaries across the country," said Ilyas Nagdee, the National Union of Student's black student's officer.

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