A lively crowd gathered in Oxford to voice opposition to Marine Le Pen, French fascist, speaking at the Oxford Union. The talk was delayed and many of the audience never made it inside, as antifascists blocked the entrance gate and climbed on the fences hanging banners. Le Pen was smuggled in and out the back by police, so presumably got at least a vague idea how unwelcome she is.
Anti Fascist Network groups were there, of course, including Berkshire Anti Fascists who’ve written about it on their page.
Le Pen is the leader of the Front National in France, which is a far-right party doing frighteningly well in the polls. Whilst the Oxford Union talk of politically neutral debate and free speech, the effect of such invitations in the real world are dangerous. Giving fascists increased legitimacy and oppportunities to speak (and be heard) creates a climate of fear and intolerance for anyone perceived as different, which includes real racist attacks and real lives made harder every day.
Around 250 people joined the enthusiastic protests, filling the street outside the venue. Those queueing to get in had to turn back as the gates were blocked by a mass of antifascists. After a bit of pushing the security managed to close the gates and declared they would not be opening them again, to anyone. One antifascist was briefly arrested and taken through the ‘very posh’ building, before being released to rejoin the others, who stayed right up until the talk was finished. At one lovely, if surreal, moment half the crowd joined in singing Les Miserables songs.
Well done to all who came out in the cold and made so much noise.