STUDENTS say police 'aggression and intimidation' stopped them from holding a 'peaceful, legal' protest at this weekend's boat race.

UPDATE: Police 'lied' over conduct at fossil fuel protest

Around 40 activists – from the Oxford Climate Justice Campaign and Cambridge Zero Carbon Society – were involved in the plan to unfurl a 20 metre anti-fossil fuel banner at the prestigious annual event, which was covered live on the BBC.

But they say their planned action was 'impeded by the aggression and intimidatory actions of police officers.'

Several students say they were searched by police and that a banner reading 'Oxbridge Come Clean' was seized on the grounds of 'protection from terrorism'. Police dispute this.

READ AGAIN: Oxford University students in 'silent and solemn' march over divestment

Activists say the item – which they say was later returned – could not even cause criminal damage and claimed officers were 'trying to prevent peaceful protest based on last year’s banner drop.'

In 2018, students draped a banner reading 'Oxbridge divest' across Hammersmith bridge. Seven years ago, a man was jailed for six months after swimming into the path of the oncoming rowers.

The attempted protest at Sunday's race – won by Cambridge in both the men's and women's events – was led by student groups campaigning for an end in investments in fossil fuels.

READ MORE: Opinion: 'Oxfordshire council's pension fund must divest from fossil fuel'

In a joint statement with Cambridge Zero Carbon, Oxford Climate Justice Campaign said: "As young people, we know that time is up for our planet, and time is up for irresponsible investments threatening our futures, and the lives of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

"Oxford and Cambridge’s continued collusion with fossil fuel interests is untenable. It is a testament to the power of our movement that the authorities are willing to go to such lengths to repress a legal protest.

"Their efforts will backfire."

Metropolitan Police spokeswoman Laura Wilson said: "At approximately 3.30pm on Sunday, officers on duty during the Boat Race became aware of a number of individuals beginning to protest on Hammersmith Bridge.

ALSO READ: Police get new powers to move travellers out of area

"Officers became concerned about people in the crowded area potentially being in possession of fireworks and causing a safety hazard to those in the vicinity. A number of other individuals were also seen acting suspiciously.

"As a result, three men and four women were stop and searched under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. No items were seized and no arrests were made."

In November, students marched through Oxford calling on individual colleges to divest, after the student newspaper Cherwell reported that millions of pounds were being invested in fossil fuels, arms and tobacco companies.

Pressure is mounting Oxford and Cambridge over fossil fuels, with more than 50 British universities already withdrawing investments from such companies.

ALSO READ: Oxfordshire County Council invest almost £133m in fossil fuels

Oxford University did not immediately respond to a request for comment but has defended its environmental record previously.

Various academics, students and alumni have spoken out about the university's investments.

In 2017, the Paradise Papers suggested that the two universities and many of their colleges invested tens of millions of pounds in offshore funds.