In January, an event hosted jointly by the Israel societies of KCL and London School of Economics (LSE) was disrupted by violent demonstrators at KCL, including Ivana Bevilaqua, 25, who was convicted on Wednesday at Westminster Magistrates Court.
The protesters, many of whom were part of KCL’s Action Palestine society, smashed a window and intimidated students attending the event.
The event was called ‘Security of Israel’ and students were joined by a guest speaker, Ami Ayalon, a left-wing peace activist and former head of the Shin Bet.
Protesters set off the fire alarm on a number of occasions, making it difficult for Ayalon to be heard.
In an account of the event on Facebook at the time, the President of KCL Israel society, Esther Endfield, said: “Protests by KCL Action Palestine at this event was inevitable but it was never inevitable that it would turn violent, not to the point that I have just reported being assaulted to the police (which is also being investigated under a hate crime), not to the point that there were chairs thrown at the room and at me, not to the point where they were so violent that Kings College London windows have been smashed”.
Endfield was one of two Jewish students subjected to violent abuse, including being called “Nazis” by protesters. While filming the protest, Enfield was assaulted by Bevilaqua, who hit her arm, knocking her mobile phone to the floor.
Bevilaqua was given a conditional discharge for 28 days and ordered to pay compensation of £100 to Ms Endfield, court costs of £200, and a victim surcharge of £20. She said: “I just wanted to speak to this war criminal”.
Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson MP, at the time condemned the violence: “Britain and Israel share many important academic links and speakers must be able to address meetings peacefully. Our universities should be safe spaces for students to expand their minds, and there can be no justification for violent intimidation that curtails free speech”.
In May, Minister Johnson said: “In relation to the event organised by the King’s College Israel Society, officials in my Department and in the Higher Education Funding Council for England asked King’s College what action they had taken in response, and I have met with the Principal to discuss this incident”.
He underlined: “It is completely unacceptable for legitimate free speech to be shut down on our universities campuses through intimidation and harassment and we will continue to fully support university leaders who take a strong stance on this”.