Hooded thugs have stormed a free speech event King's College London, throwing smoke bombs and attacking security guards.
Believed to be part of the anti-facist movement, violent protesters forced their way into a lecture hall before setting off
smoke bombs and smashing windows. Thugs grabbed the speaker's microphone, while several security guards were punched during the melee.
A threatening note was also left for the compere.
Ten to 15 people dressed all in black, with black hoods
and black face masks, leapt over the barriers and instantly engaged in a fight with two or three security guards, said witness Tristan Teller:
They tried to stop them but they just started punching them in the face.
One guard, a grey-haired gentleman who looked to be in around 60, received several punches.
The event, which was organised by KCL Libertarian Society, saw YouTube personality Sargon of Akkad, real name Carl Benjamin, invited to speak
alongside Ayn Rand Institute director Dr Yaron Brook.
The group were had dispersed by the time police arrived. There have been no reported injuries. No arrests. Enquiries continue.
Update: Antifa: the militant wing of authoritarianism
Higher education minister Jo Johnson says institutions that fail to protect freedom of speech could be fined. He explained in a speech:
A university is the quintessential liberal institution. Not liberal in a narrow party political
sense, but in the true liberal of free and rigorous inquiry, of liberty and of tolerance.
The liberal tradition is a noble and important one; but today it finds itself under threat. Liberal politics are under threat from national
and populist parties around the world. Economic liberalism is under threat from those who turn to protectionism for quick-fix solutions to complex problems.
Our universities, rather like the Festival we
are today, should be places that open minds not close them, where ideas can be freely challenged and prejudices exposed.
But in universities in America and increasingly in the United Kingdom, there are countervailing forces of
censorship, where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them in every way under the banner of safe spaces or no-platforming.
However well-intentioned, the proliferation of such safe spaces, the rise of
no-platforming, the removal of offensive books from libraries and the drawing up of ever more extensive lists of banned trigger words are undermining the principle of free speech in our universities.
Without that basic liberal
principle, our universities will be compromised.
Shield young people from controversial opinions, views that challenge their most profoundly held beliefs or simply make them uncomfortable, and you are
on the slippery slope that ends up with a society less able to make scientific breakthroughs, to be innovative and to resist injustice.
That's why the government is taking action now.
As part of our reforms to higher education, we have set up a new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), which, as its name suggests, will regulate the university sector in a way that puts the interests of students first.
Created by the Higher Education & Research Act 2017, the OfS will come into being next week.
Promoting freedom of speech within the law will be at the heart of its approach to the regulation of our higher
The OfS will go further than its predecessor in promoting freedom of speech.
In the Act, we extended the existing statutory duty on universities to secure free speech in the Education
(No.2) Act 1986 so that it will apply to all providers of higher education registered with the OfS.
Furthermore, as a condition of registration with the new regulator, we are proposing that all universities benefitting from public
money must demonstrate a clear commitment to free speech in their governance documents.
And the OfS will in turn use its regulatory powers to hold them to account for ensuring that lawful freedom of speech is upheld by their staff
And I want to be clear about this: attempts to silence opinions that one disagrees with have no place in the English university system. Academics and students alike must not allow a
culture to take hold where silence is preferable to a dissenting voice.
If we want our universities to thrive, we must defend the liberal values of freedom of speech and diversity of opinion on which they depend.
Freedom of speech within the law must prevail in our society, with only the narrowest necessary exceptions justified by specific countervailing public policies.
The student's union at City University in London has voted to ban the Daily Mail, Sun and Express newspapers on campus, despite there being no shops which sell them on the institution's grounds.
The decision was met with surprise and outrage from
journalism students and former students, who claimed it was censorship and worrying and ignorant . A contest to the motion is now expected.
The Student Union's Annual General Meeting passed the motion Opposing Fascism and Social
Divisiveness in the UK Media . The motion said that while the Mail, Sun and Express were the main focus of its policy, other media organisations were not excluded. The motion also promoted active pressuring of the aforementioned media outlets to
cease to fuel fascism, racial tension and hatred in society and advocated using the University's industry contacts to reach out to employees and shareholders of the media outlets in question.
The union took issue with subjects of both
recent and long term controversy. In addition to criticism of high court judges by the Mail and Express, they also rebuked the Sun for its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster. Other criticisms included approaching Nigel Farage for comment, criticising
Islam, and giving Katie Hopkins a column.
On 17 March 2016 from 5-6pm, we will be holding a protest at the office of the NUS, Macadam House, 275 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8QB. Join Us. Also Tweet "I call on @nusuk to revise safe space and no platform policies to
facilitate not restrict free expression and thought; or email the NUS stating the same at email@example.com.
We are deeply concerned by the increasing attempts by the National Union of Students (NUS) and its affiliated
Student Unions to silence dissenters -- including feminists, apostates, LGBTI rights campaigners, anti-racists, anti-fascists and anti-Islamists -- through its use of No-Platform and Safe Space policies.
We stand against
all prejudice and discrimination. We agree that free speech does not mean giving bigots a free pass. A defence of free speech includes the right and moral imperative to challenge, oppose and protest bigoted views.
Educational institutions must be a place for the exchange and criticism of all ideas -- even those deemed unpalatable by some -- providing they don't incite violence against peoples or communities. Bigoted ideas are most effectively defeated by open debate, backed up by ethics, reason and evidence.
The student body is not homogeneous; there will be differences of opinion among students. The NUS's restrictive policies infringe upon the right of students to hear and challenge dissenting and opposing views.
We, therefore, call on the NUS to revise its No-Platform and Safe Space policies to facilitate freedom of expression and thought, rather than restrict it.
Signed: Alicia McElhill,
President City of Leicester NUT Asher Fainman, President of Goldsmiths ASH society Author, Jesus & Mo Becky Lavelle, President, Hull University Secularist, Atheist, and Humanist Society Benjamin David, President of Warwick Atheists,
Secularists and Humanists Bread and Roses TV Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked Chris Moos, secularist activist Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain David Browne, LLM Student in International Human Rights Law Durham Atheist, Secularist
and Humanist Society Elham Manea, Academic and human Rights advocate Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize Fariborz Pooya, Host of Bread and Roses TV Feminism in London Fireproof Library Frederick Money, Undergraduate, Merton College
Oxford Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space Gush Bhumbra, President, Leicester Secular Society Halima Begum, ExMuslim Researcher & Blogger Helen Chamberlain, President, Durham Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society Houzan
Mahmoud, Women's Rights Activist, Kurdistan Hull University Secularist, Atheist, and Humanist Society Ian Leaver, Secretary City of Leicester NUT Imad Iddine Habib, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain James Burchett, Activist
Julie Bindel, Justice for Women and the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize Justice for Women Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist Kenan Malik, Author Keziah Conroy, UCLU Atheist, Secularity and Humanist society President Kojin
Mirizayi, Law student, President of the Kurdish Society at the University of Kent Lee Jones, Queen Mary, University of London Lisa-Marie Taylor, Chair of Feminism in London Maajid Nawaz, Author and Counter-extremism Activist Maggie Hall,
Chair, Brighton Secular Humanists Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, One Law for All and Host of Bread and Roses TV Matt Corden, undergraduate at Newcastle University Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of
Ex-Muslims of Britain Nick Cohen, Author Nira Yuval-Davis, Director of the Research Centre on Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB) at the University of East London Ollie Burton, President, Newcastle University Atheists' & Secular
Humanists' Society One Law for All Peter Flack, Leicester Social Forum Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner Rayhana Sultan, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Richard Dawkins, Scientist and Author Roy Brown,
International Representative and former president of IHEU Rumana Hashem, Founder of Community Women's Blog and Adviser at Nari Diganta Rumy Hasan, Senior Lecturer (SPRU -- Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex Salil Tripathi,
Writer Sarah Peace, Fireproof Library Stephen Evans, Campaigns Manager, National Secular Society Tehmina Kazi, Director of Media, Outreach and Lobbying, British Muslims for Secular Democracy Tom Holland, Author and Historian University of Leicester Atheist, Humanist and Secular Society