Peter Tatchell to hold ‘free speech’ protest outside National Union of Students HQ
Veteran gay rights activist Peter Tatchell is holding a protest outside the National Union of Students after a clash with a student LGBT officer.
Mr Tatchell spoke out last month after an NUS LGBT+ officer refused to share a platform with him at an event, claiming he has “racist” and “transphobic” beliefs.
The activist allegedly leaked private email exchanges with NUS officer Fran Cowling to the press, pushing the story to multiple outlets.
After the news spread, Cowling received a deluge of abusive messages and a tidal-wave of abuse that forced them off social media. The abuse has been criticised by Mr Tatchell on his organisation’s website, and the activist says he himself has also received abuse since the incident.
In an open letter to Mr Tatchell after the incident, over a hundred academics and public figures voiced concern about his use of the media in handling of the incident, with many suggesting he had exploited his high profile to “bully” a young student.
However, Mr Tatchell has not backed down, and is now promoting a protest that will take place this week challenging the NUS “safe space and no-platform policies” – which he claims can “restrict freedom of expression”.
A statement circulated by Mr Tatchell says: “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.”
It is not Mr Tatchell’s only recent controversy – he recently expressed support for a Northern Ireland bakery that is facing action for refusing to bake a ‘gay’ case.
The bakery’s legal case is supported by the anti-LGBT Christian Institute.