26 Nov 2007

Oxford debacle delayed but goes ahead despite protests

Students say the views of the controversial speakers are not valid debate at the Oxford Union which got underway after being delayed when protesters forced their way into the building.
BNP leader Nick Griffin and controversial historian David Irving were invited to talk about free speech. Thirty protesters pushed their way into the hall to stage a sit-down protest at the debating table. Earlier, 500 people staged a sit-down demonstration outside the gates of the building, preventing about half the students due to attend from getting in. Anti-racism campaigners said the two men should not be given a platform to speak at the debate in St Michael's Street, Oxford. Protesters chanted anti-fascist slogans and jeered "shame on you".
Martin Mcluskey, from the Oxford University Students' Union, said: "What we are doing here tonight at the Oxford Union is putting them on a platform that will give them legitimacy and credibility. It is as if we are saying that we agree with what they are saying and that we think it is valid." Novelist Anne Atkins, who is participating in the debate, said controversial views should not be silenced but exposed. When you say that the majority view is always right I think that is a deeply dangerous and disturbing thing to say. I am not for a moment saying that I agree with David Irving or Nick Griffin but I am saying that once you start having truth by democracy you risk silencing some of the most important prophets we have ever had."

Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis has resigned his membership of the Oxford debating union in protest describing the two men as "a couple of scoundrels" in his resignation letter.

Griffin has repeatedly insisted the BNP is not a racist group. He was convicted in 1998 for incitement to racial hatred for material denying the Holocaust. Irving was imprisoned for three years after pleading guilty to Holocaust denial in Austria.

Freedom of speech should not be used as a platform to propogate the views of such men which are clearly fascist and racist and Oxford Student Union should be ashamed of itself.

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