PROTESTORS are planning to picket the Oxford Union this week during a visit by controversial columnist Katie Hopkins.

It comes after a petition was started calling on people to boycott the famous debating chamber until it stopped giving a platform to ‘racist and fascist’ speakers.

TV star Katie Hopkins, who first became famous for her stint on The Apprentice, but is now more well known for her controversial opinions, is due to talk at the union on Thursday.

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Ironically, she is on a panel of six who will be debating ‘No Platforming’ – not giving a public stage to those with offensive opinions.

She will be opposing the idea alongside politician Ann Widdecombe (now of the Brexit Party) and controversial journalist Toby Young.

And, despite the vow to boycott the union and events set up on Facebook to protest her arrival, the president of the union has said the speakers will not change.

Announcing her visit, Katie Hopkins defied the petition and tweeted: “Delighted to be back at @UniofOxford speaking @OxfordUnion this week. To protest my appearance and swear blind you will boycott the Oxford Union for eternity please do sign this petition.”

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Twitter profile Boycott The Oxford Union, which was set up at the weekend, replied: “Thanks for the free publicity, you utter cockroach.”

Oxford Labour councillor Dan Iley Williamson, is among those who have signed the petition, saying that, in 2015, Katie Hopkins had ‘disgustingly’ branded African migrants as 'cockroaches'.

He said: “I think there is a difference in calling people who are desperately trying survive cockroaches and a student-led campaign calling a racist a cockroach.

“Giving a platform grants legitimacy. It’s not a question of free speech, but it gives her credibility.

Read about when Oxford Union invited 'fascist' French politician Marion Maréchal-Le Pen.

“Hosting political events has major impacts and should be done responsibly and mindfully.”

Martyn Rush, Labour councillor for Barton, has also signed the petition, which states: “We, the undersigned – Oxford University students, staff, alumni, Oxford City residents, former Oxford Union speakers and public figures wish to express our firm and compromising opposition to all forms of fascism and racism.”

The organisers behind the campaign told the Oxford Mail: “We are calling for a boycott the union until it ceases to appease fascism and removes videos of fascist and far right figures from their YouTube channel.”

Remember when protests about Steve Bannon's visit blocked the streets near the union.

Genevieve Athis, the president of the Oxford Union, explained: "From its foundation, the Oxford Union has placed a high value on the voices of both its members and its guests. By inviting speakers that are sometimes considered to be controversial, not only on the right but on the left – for instance Slavoj Žižek, we aim to not only host them but to challenge, explore and criticise their ideas.

"The Oxford Union is unique in that far from offering speakers a ‘platform’ from which to lecture its members, it always allows for time for its speakers to be questioned.

"It is not for the Oxford Union to take a political position in regards to the speakers we invite. However, we do of course oppose all forms of fascism and racism."

She added: “The Union supports the right to peaceful protest, however we do not plan to make any changes to the programme of our events planned for this term.”

The open letter to the Oxford Union in full:

We, the undersigned - Oxford University students, staff, alumni, Oxford city residents, former Oxford Union speakers, and public figures - wish to express our firm and uncompromising opposition to all forms of fascism and racism. We note with distress that this principle is not shared by a small group of students and trustees who run the Oxford Union Debating Society.

This academic term, the Oxford Union has invited Katie Hopkins to speak. This is a woman whose hateful views, including comments directed at refugees, migrants, Jews, Muslims, the mentally ill and the LGBTQ+ community have led to her being fired from LBC Radio. Last year, she was detained in South Africa on the charge of spreading racial hatred.

In November 2018, two weeks after eleven worshippers were murdered by a white supremacist at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Oxford Union saw fit to host Steve Bannon, a man repeatedly condemned by Jewish community organisations and civil society for stoking anti-semitism in America. Oxford Union members applauded his hateful ideology, while the institution posted a video of his talk online which, at the time of writing, has been viewed over 800,000 times - emboldening hundreds of thousands of sympathisers across the globe. Outside Bannon’s talk, a small group of neo-Nazis, emboldened by Bannon’s words, performed Hitler salutes and physically attacked student protesters.

In January 2019, the Oxford Union played host to Marion Marechal Le Pen, former National Assembly representative for the fascist political party National Rally (formerly known as the Front National). She has accused the Muslim community in France of being aligned with terrorist groups and has repeatedly defended the claim that Muslims are a “treacherous third column”. She has also made frequent hateful statements about France’s LGBTQ+ community and other oppressed groups.

These events form part of a decades long pattern of inviting proponents of hate into Oxford. The Oxford Union has previously hosted the Holocaust deniers David Irving and Nick Griffin, and the former leader of the fascist English Defence League, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (alias Tommy Robinson). The Union has ignored repeated and widespread calls from Oxford students, staff and residents to withdraw invitations to such figures.

Violent fascist street movements and far right political parties are gaining strength across the world, from Brazil to Austria to Hungary to the White House itself. We cannot remain silent whilst the elite leadership of the Oxford Union uses this global crisis to raise their own profiles and further their careers by courting controversy and lending respectability to racist and fascist ideologues.

We note with concern that the decisions to invite such speakers - decisions that affect everyone in the city - are made by Oxford Union officers elected by a small and self-selectively elite membership, limited to those who can afford fees of up to £278.

We call upon the Oxford Union to immediately cease hosting fascists and racists and to remove videos of the following fascist and/or racist speakers from their YouTube channel: Tommy Robinson, Steve Bannon, Marine Le Pen, Mahathir Bin Mohamad.

Until this happens, and until the institution ceases to appease fascists and openly enable the online radicalisation of far right terrorists, we pledge to boycott all Oxford Union events.