Oxford Union president resigns after blind black student dragged out of debate ‘by the ankles’

Eleanor Busby
Oxford University Africa Society
Oxford University Africa Society

The president of one of the most prestigious debating societies in the UK has resigned after a blind black student was reportedly “dragged by his ankles” out of a debate event in Oxford.

Ebenezer Azamati, a PhD student from Ghana, was removed from the Oxford Union event by a security guard when he tried to return to a seat before the debate began.

The incident, which was caught on video, prompted calls for Brendan McGrath, president of the Oxford Union, to resign over the “inhumane and shameful” treatment of the 25-year-old.

A petition calling for Mr McGrath to step down, launched by the Oxford University Africa Society (OUAS), has been signed by more than 45,000 people in just a few days.

Mr Azamati, an international relations student, arrived early to attend a debate last month to reserve a seat as he was worried there would be no special provisions for disabled students.

When he returned for the debate after dinner, Mr Azamati was denied entry but he attempted to sit down on his reserved seat. Security officials then manhandled him out of the building.

Mr Azamati had said it left him feeling “unwelcome in the union, Oxford and even the country”.

A statement from Mr McGrath, posted on the Oxford Union Facebook site on Tuesday evening, said: “Fundamentally, it is the president’s job to ensure that every member feels welcome at the Oxford Union. This is a goal I have manifestly failed to reach.

“For all of my shortcomings, and all of my mistakes, I apologise profusely and unqualifiedly.”

He added: “I can only hope that my relative public silence is not interpreted as being uncaring, or taking the matter lightly.”

An appeal hearing on Saturday heard evidence from student Henry Hatwell, who said: “Thirty seconds after he [Mr Azamati] sat down, the security guard came in.

“Five seconds afterwards, he started touching Azamati, who was holding on to the bench. Thirty seconds later, they were dragging him by his ankles.”

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Blind black student dragged out of Oxford debate ‘by the ankles’