STUDENTS ARE demanding justice and the resignation of the Oxford Union president after a visually impaired student was “dragged by his feet” from a debate at the union.
Ebenezer Azamati, who is from Ghana, reportedly arrived to the chamber on October 17 prior to the debate on confidence in the UK government in order to secure an accessible seat. He left to eat dinner and returned before the debate had begun but was refused entry.
The 25-year-old postgraduate student, who is studying international relations at Oxford, then gained access to the chamber and resumed his seat but was forcibly removed.
One member of the union who witnessed the incident told The Oxford Student the treatment by staff was “unnecessarily violent”.
“[He] became frustrated but not threatening, and very quickly the security guards were physically restraining him without any consideration of the fact that he could not see”, Hannah Foxton told the student newspaper.
Another witness, Harry Hatwell, described the ordeal as “humiliating and traumatising” and said that at one point Azamati was “dragged off the bench by his feet while audience members merely looked on”, The Oxford Student reported.
Following the incident, the president of the Oxford Union, Brendan McGrath, filed a charge of violent misconduct against Azamati.
On Saturday, following an appeal hearing, McGrath formally withdrew the charge and apologised “unreservedly for the distress and any reputational damage which the publication may have caused” Azamati.
In a statement, the Oxford University Africa Society, which has set up a petition calling for McGrath’s resignation and justice for Azamati, said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the violent, unjust, inhumane, and shameful treatment of Mr Azamati at the union chambers by a union staff. No Oxford student/union member deserves to be treated in that manner, not least a visually impaired one. Mr Azamati is deserving of his place as much as anyone else enrolled here.”
The society is calling for McGrath to make a public apology, official confirmation that Azamati’s union membership has been reinstated, a public statement from the Oxford Union on how it will be disciplining staff involved in the incident and details of how it will compensate Azamati.
It has also said that McGrath misrepresented the facts and subjected Azamati to undue trauma, distress and pain, and as a result is demanding his immediate resignation.
On Friday, dozens of students attended a protest to express their solidarity with Azamati and reiterate their calls for McGrath to step down.