Angry scenes greet Oxford debate
It was a far cry from the normal image of Oxford and its students.
Not a gown in sight, studies left behind for an evening, as hundreds of protesters besieged the Union Society, furious at the decision to invite the leader of the far-right British National Party to speak there, along with a historian who has denied that the holocaust ever happened. Nick Griffin was bustled in surrounded by a group of skinheads to protect him.
David Irving's arrival was more low-key, but the presence of both set off a furious reaction among many students: "This has nothing to do with free speech," argued one protester, "it's about giving credibility to fascists, making them appear to be part of the mainstream."
Another insisted, perhaps more improbably that "I would rather be at home writing an essay," but, he added, "an institution which I'm a member of is giving a platform to fascists and that is totally unacceptable." Banners were draped over the walls surrounding the Union Society, bearing anti-racist slogans, while chants reverberated through the narrow streets outside: "BNP - off the streets" and "Nazi scum - go home." Many had travelled from other cities to join the demonstration. A student down from Birmingham said it was important to have more people outside than among the audience.
In fact, the audience for the debate was diminished because many Union Society members were not able to get in. Police blocked both entrances to the building to hold the protesters at bay, but that prevented even some of those with tickets from entering. The result was an odd collection of mini-debates breaking out in the surrounding streets, with protesters engaging Union Society members on the finer points of political theory.
One group supporting the event held a banner aloft bearing Voltaire's famous dictum: "I disapprove of your views, but would fight to the death for your right to express them." The woman carrying it insisted she had no time for the BNP, but wanted the chance to hear its leader explain what he stands for: "It's exactly the kind of thing that university is supposed to be about," she said.
But not everyone would settle for verbal jousting alone. About 50 protesters managed to break into the debating chamber, delaying the event from starting. Police eventually managed to remove them, but with the audience also having trouble getting in, the debate did not get going until just before 10pm, an hour and a half later than scheduled.
Nonetheless, the Oxford Union Society is insisting the event was a success, albeit a qualified one. President Luke Tryl said: "I think fascism is awful and abhorrent, but the way to take on fascism is through debate." "We had David Irving and Nick Griffin, both challenged and subjected to the proper scrutiny of students." But Waymen Bennet of the organisation Unite Against Fascism said they had succeeded in all their aims. He said: "I am proud to have stood with black people, white people, Jewish, non-Jewish, gay and straight, to stop a debate that had nothing to do with democracy."
27 ноември 2007
За щастие, подобни изпълнения ни помагат да се преборим с фиксацията върху собствените си проблеми (акцентите в болд са мои) (впрочем, в какво бъркат Грифин и Ървинг е много важен, но съвсем отделен въпрос; хубавото е, че ВВС остават верни на принципа "immer zuhören, niemals angehören"--познавай нещата, без да бъдеш част от тях):