Cambridge University’s St John’s May Ball disrupted by pro-Palestine protest

Protestors unfurled a banner and launched flares in front of hundreds of students

Students representing the group Cambridge For Palestine disrupted the annual St John’s May Ball in protest of the college’s refusal to disclose and divest from its financial ties to Israel.

On Wednesday 19th June, student protestors dressed in keffiyehs positioned themselves on top of St John’s New Court’s exterior walls, launching red, white and green flares to represent the colours of the Palestinian flag.

The protestors also dropped a banner reading “Cambridge: Divest from Genocide”, whilst the ball’s attendees gathered alongside members of the security team to watch the events unfold.

Some members of the crowd were heard shouting chants such as “Free free Palestine” and “Palestine will be free, Palestine will live forever”.

This disruption comes as part of a wider series of protest action which initially began following a Freedom of Information request concerning Trinity College’s investments in February. Smaller protests culminated in the establishment of the “liberated zone” by Cambridge For Palestine on Monday 6th May.

As reported by Varsity, Trinity College voted to remove funding for arms companies in March of this year, including those currently providing arms for the conflict in Gaza. Varsity has also reported that King’s College has promised to review its investments in the first term of the 2024-25 academic year.

St John’s has yet to make a statement on its investments concerning the Israeli state since the Cambridge For Palestine encampment was set up on King’s Parade.

In response, the protest group interrupted the college’s annual May Ball – widely hailed to be the “seventh best party in the world” – which ran from 8pm on Tuesday 18th June to 5:30am on Wednesday 19th June. Tickets for the event cost between £215 and £450.

This protest reflects Cambridge For Palestine’s broader aims to force Cambridge University to disclose its financial ties to organisations complicit in the conflict in Gaza, divest from such organisations and reinvest in and protect at-risk Palestinian students.

It remains to be seen whether the encampment will remain in place after the majority of undergraduate students leave Cambridge for the summer break.