Two student anarchists staged a protest against the UKIP Society at Freshers Fair on Wednesday (16th September).
At 4pm as the fair was beginning to wrap up, the protesters – shown above attempting to conceal their identity, used the red-and-black flag – a symbol of the anarchist communism flag – to camouflage the table in which the UKIP Society had been using to attract new members.
However, the Sussex society representing the hardline Eurosceptic, right-wing party led by Nigel Farage had already packed up their stall and departed Mandela Hall in Falmer House, where their stall was situated.
An on-the-scene Badger confronted the male student, part of the Anarchist Society, and asked why he was staging the protest, he answered: “I don’t think racists should be allowed a stall.
When pushed on whether the protesters wanted the UKIP Society to be banned from campus, the male student – who told us he wished to remain anonymous – added: “The platform should be there for a right-wing groups. That’s why Sussex has a Conservative group, I think that’s important for debate. I just don’t think we should have racists.”
The Badger reporter then sought clarification on whether he is claiming any particular individual associated with the Society are “racist”, to which the female protester simply said: “The Society as a whole is racist.”
The male student added that UKIP should not be allowed a voice on campus “if the Students’ Union have a policy against racism and homophobia on campus”.
The UKIP Society was founded in the spring by Will Saunders, who said: “We were packing away by the time they showed up, which was why what they did was so pointless.”
Saunders added: “The actions of the Anarchist Society were simply immature. They achieved nothing through what they did, other than demonstrate their belief that Sussex students do not have the right to make up their own minds.”
The Badger was unable to contact the Anarchist Society but welcome a response to Saunders’ comment from a representative.
The Sussex Students’ Union’s online policy document states as a requirement that societies “actively counter prejudice and discrimination and demonstrate their commitment to equality and diversity policies and practice”.
Back in March ahead of the 2015 General Election, the Students’ Union backed down over its decision to bar UKIP’s candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Nigel Carter, from their Politics Society’s pre-election debate. The Students’ Union had previously barred UKIP because it had not appealed to over five percent of the electorate at the 2010 election. Only political parties which had scored over five percent in the Brighton Pavilion constituency were allowed to attend.
Their U-turn came after a petition was launched on change.org and was signed by 407 people before the decision to lift the ban and invite UKIP and other parties was announced.
There was not a referendum, unlike on many issues that divide opinion on campus, on UKIP participating in the on-campus Question Time event, due in the end to a lack of time to organise one.
Instead, an online poll over four days found that, of 327 students that took part, 70-per-cent backed UKIP being invited to the debate. Following that poll, the Executive Committee decided to invite all candidates standing in the Brighton Pavilion constituency, despite not achieving the required number of votes (450) to be considered representative.
The Politics Society and undergraduate Education Officer Bethan Hunt, reelected in March, had been vocal in opposing the original decision.
Responding to the incident, Hunt told The Badger: “The role of the Students’ Union is to represent all students at Sussex and as such, there is always going to be a difference of opinions and some tensions between societies. We hope that our new Safer Space Policy which will go to Union Council in the next two weeks will help to facilitate events in an environment which are not personally unsafe to any of our members. It is important to remember that the Students’ Union is a democratic organisation so if any of our members are unhappy with our decisions or policy they can adapt or challenge them through referenda or emergency member meetings.”
Meanwhile, Activities Officer, Lyndsay Burtonshaw, commented: “As with every new society, UKIP Students went through a democratic process to be approved, making an application to the Societies Committee. This committee did voice their concerns to UKIP Student’s President over the society’s links to the national UKIP party, and they raised the point that members of UKIP have been publicly xenophobic, sexist, transphobic, homophobic and ableist, which contradicts Union policy.
“However, the Societies Committee decided that we value free speech on campus, and after significant deliberation, the society was approved. Additionally, as we defend the right to free speech, we also defend the right to protest.”