Anti-fascists threat to target Oxford Union

First published in News by

MORE than 1,000 people are expected to descend on Oxford Union's Free Speech Forum on Monday, following its decision to invite a Holocaust denier and the BNP leader.

Weyman Bennett, national secretary of pressure group Unite Against Fascism has compared the decision to ask historian David Irving and British National Party leader Nick Griffin to speak at the forum as akin to "giving Hitler a platform".

He claimed the amount of people attending the demonstration would eclipse the 1,062 who voted to support invitations to the two controversial figures last night.

The ballot saw another 640 union members vote against the motion to invite the two.

Mr Bennett said: "The vote is a disaster for democracy. Would you give Hitler a platform?

"It is irresponsible and dangerous. We are planning to have a big protest. There will be more people outside the Oxford Union than inside, and there will be more people outside the union than voted for this debate to go ahead."

Martin McCluskey, President of Oxford University Student Union, said he would be among the protesters outside the forum, which takes place in Frewin Court, St Michael's Street from 8.30pm.

He said: "I am disappointed that the vote went that way.

"It is only a matter of time before Nick Griffin starts saying 'the students of Oxford University listened to me, you should do to.' "They are going to use it to propagate their views elsewhere."

More than 100 people attended an anti-fascist protest at Oxford's Town Hall in the week ahead of the vote, and other high profile figures due to attend debates at the union have pulled out of their engagements in protest.

These include television presenter June Sarpong, Defence Secretary Des Browne, and Labour MP Austin Mitchell.

Mr Irving, who was jailed in Austria for denying the Nazi execution of millions of Jews, said: "I am six feet two inches - I have not been intimidated before and I do not think I will be intimidated this time.

"I am very pleased I will have the opportunity to speak at the Oxford Union. I was convinced that the enemies of free speech would prevent me speaking."

He added he had been stopped from speaking at the Oxford Union in the past because Thames Valley Police had raised public order concerns.

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