One of Oxford University’s most prestigious societies is facing scrutiny after a Black blind student was allegedly “dragged by his feet” from a debate hall last week in a “disgraceful” incident caught on video.
Ebenezer Azamati, a Ph.D. student from Ghana, was attending a debate held by the Oxford Union, revered as the “world’s most prestigious speaker and debating society,” Saturday when he was manhandled and forcefully ejected from the event, The Sunday Times reported.
The 25-year-old, who’s studying international relations at the British university, had arrived early to the debate to save himself a seat, as he was unsure if there would be special provisions for disabled persons. He placed a book down to reserve his spot, then left for dinner.
When Azamati returned for the event, he was denied entry but eventually made his way into the audience to take his seat. Seconds later, witnesses said security arrived and dragged the young man from the room, despite his efforts to resist being strong-armed.
In the minute-long clip, Azamati is seen in a tense back-and-forth with the guards before they begin grabbing for his arms.
“The whole ordeal looked humiliating and traumatizing,” one student told The Oxford student, which first reported the incident. “The force used was objectively disproportionate — at one point he was being dragged off the bench by his feet while audience members merely looked on.”
Student Henry Hatwell testified during an appeal hearing Saturday, describing how the guards rushed in “thirty seconds after [Azamati] sat down.”
“Five seconds afterwards, he started touching Azamati, who was holding on to the bench,”Hatwell added. ““Thirty seconds later, they were dragging him by his ankles.”
The ordeal was decried by the Oxford University Africa Society (OUAS), who argued Azamati had been subjected to “violent, unjust, inhumane, and shameful treatment” while trying to reenter the debate hall. The group has since launched a petition calling for the ouster of Oxford Union president Brendan McGrath, who alleged during a disciplinary hearing that Azamati had behaved violently/aggressively.
At that same meeting, the Ph.D. student said his forced removal left him feeling “unwelcome” at Oxford and Britain as a whole.
“I felt that I was treated as not being human enough to deserve justice and fair treatment,” Azamati added.
According to The Independent, McGrath later withdrew his complaint alleging violent misconduct by Azamati following Saturday’s hearing and apologized “unreservedly” for the pain and embarrassment the incident had caused.
“We’ve apologised unreservedly to Mr. Azamati for the distress and any reputational damage for which the publication of the incident may have caused,” the union said in a statement, adding that it’s currently in talks with the postgraduate student to resolve the “structural issues raised.”
“We do not wish to prejudice those discussions with further comment at this time,” it concluded.