Bristol uni students barricade door to 'cancel' speaker Yaron Brook

Bristol university students barricade door to event in bid to ‘cancel’ controversial speaker Ayn Rand Institute chairman Yaron Brook who backed Muslim immigration ban in US and Europe

  • Protestors from University of Bristol barricaded door of event to ‘cancel’ speaker
  • Yaron Brook was set to talk about causes of war in relation to conflict in Ukraine 
  • But the door was barricaded by activists who chanted and played loud music
  • The university is currently being sued by Raquel Rosario Sanchez over claims that the institution failed to protect her from harassment and bullying

Bristol university students barricaded the door to an event in a desperate bid to ‘cancel’ controversial speaker Yaron Brook who backed the Muslim immigration ban in Europe and the US.

The 60-year-old Ayn Rand Institute chairman was invited to the university by the Liberty Society to talk about the causes of war in relation to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

But no sooner had the event started, the door was barricaded by protestors who played loud music through speakers, banged on doors and chanted – which caused it to be cut short slightly.

The protesters have since accused Mr Brook of having ‘hateful’ and ‘sinister’ politics due to his views on US imperialism, Islam and Palestine. Brook has previously advocated for a ban on Muslims immigrating into the USA and Europe on the basis that the western world is ‘at war with radical Islam’.

He also supports Israel in its conflict with Palestine, which lead to the deaths of 5,600 Palestinians and 250 Israelis between 2008 and 2020, according to data published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

This is not the first time that a speaker at the university has been targeted by activists. The university is currently being sued by Raquel Rosario Sanchez over claims that the institution failed to protect her from harassment and bullying.

It is alleged she was targeted over her involvement with campaign group Woman’s Place UK after trans rights activists protested against a talk she was holding and labelled her a ‘terf’ (trans-exclusionary radical feminist).

Bristol university students barricaded the door to an event in a desperate bid to ‘cancel’ controversial speaker Yaron Brook (Pictured) who backed the Muslim immigration ban in the US and Europe

Student Action Bristol, which organised the protest against Mr Brook, declined to be interviewed, but in the aftermath of the event they claimed they had ‘no choice’ but to block him from speaking. 

In a statement posted on social media, they wrote: ‘Yaron Brook represents a sinister politics, one which harms the most vulnerable students in our university.

‘He wears a suit and speaks the language of power – but his ideas are no different to those of Tommy Robinson or Nick Griffin. Should he or his kind attempt to speak at the university again, we will be back and in greater numbers.’

But Mr Brook told Bristol Live that he does not agree with the attempt to ‘silence’ him, and says the students should have tried to engage him in a debate instead.

He said: ‘I completely accept the fact that people have a right to protest, they don’t like what I have to say.

‘They don’t like me, they don’t like something I’ve said in the past, that’s fine. What I don’t think is acceptable, and what I don’t think the university should allow, is the disruption of an event.

‘Students have put a lot of time and effort into organising an event, I came out from London to do the event. To disrupt it, to attempt to stop an event from happening and to attempt to silence a speaker should be unacceptable and there should be ways to deal with it by security and police.

‘We invited them in to ask questions but they didn’t want to come in under those terms. Their whole goal was to silence me and I think that’s unacceptable.’

Mr Brook also denied having ‘hateful’ views on Israel or on Islam, and said that the claims that the protesters have made about him are ‘ridiculous’.

He said: ‘Is it out of the mainstream to be pro-Israeli? I guess it is in UK universities, but that’s a little nuts and a little crazy. I’m pro-Israel and I think the Palestinians have been betrayed by their leadership, and have gone down a path that is not in their interest.

‘I think it’s sad what’s happening in Israel and among the Palestinians and I think Israel is in the right in the conflict. I don’t think my views on Islam are that out of the mainstream and I don’t think my views on Islam are that radical.

‘I’m not particularly fond of any religion, I’m hugely critical of Christianity and Judaism and Islam. And in the context of 9/11, I’ve said things about jihadism or totalitarian Islam that are pretty harsh, but they deserve it given their terrorist activities.

‘But Islam? My views on Islam qua religion? They don’t know what my views on Islam qua religion is.’

The 60-year-old Ayn Rand Institute chairman was invited to the university by the Liberty Society to talk about the causes of war in relation to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. But no sooner had the event started, the door was barricaded by protestors, who played loud music through speakers, banged on doors and chanted – which caused it to be cut short. Pictured: Bristol University

And he added: ‘The fact is, my views are not mainstream, but if we only accept mainstream views I think we’ll be doing a huge disservice to the culture in which we live, and I think particularly the universities where were supposed to be challenged, we’re supposed to be thinking a bit outside of the box.’

Following the event, Mr Brook wrote on Twitter: ‘Tonight a group of Leftist students tries to Cancel me at Bristol University in the UK. In spite of their threats and the obnoxious noise they created my talk on the Roots of War proceeded as planned. I will not let thugs intimidate me into silence.’

Some other students at the university have criticised the activists’ decision to try and ‘cancel’ the event. Eshaan Badesha, who is the treasurer of the university’s Labour Club society, says that he ‘despises’ Mr Brook’s views but did not agree with the protest.

The 20-year-old said that, while he might have supported direct action if Mr Brook had been invited to speak publicly, such as at a rally, he does not support trying to shut down debate at a private event.

He said: ‘If the SU thought it was acceptable to have then we don’t think we should allow students not to have their right to have that speaker talk. The difference would have been if he was there to give off the views that he has before on things like American foreign policy, Islamic extremism.

‘But in this sense he was there as a libertarian promoting his philosophy and promoting his view on the Ukraine crisis, and I feel like that was perhaps a step too far, to try and no-platform him. The issue we have as well is, the people attending that event might not necessarily know that much about him, and they might have gone in good faith to learn more about his views.

Student Action Bristol, which organised the protest against Mr Brook, declined to be interviewed, but in the aftermath of the event they claimed they had ‘no choice’ but to block him from speaking (file image)

‘When they see people on the so-called left perhaps trying to shut down the views of someone like that, it’s only going to consolidate the views they already hold. Ideally our politics, as members of the Labour Club, our views are that we’re trying to bring people on a journey and tell them, ‘this is what we stand for’.

‘When you go to places where there’s a private event, and a small group of people tells them, ‘we’re going to no-platform your speaker’ and they intimidate those members who aren’t as aware, are you actually benefiting your cause there? Because now all the news is going to be not about Yaron Brook and his awful views, it’s going to be about a bunch of students causing security problems, and it doesn’t actually help the cause that you’re fighting for either.’

And, following the event, the Liberty Society wrote a lengthy statement on its Facebook page condemning the actions of the students. It said: ‘The UoB Liberty Society aims to provide an environment which facilitates the free exchange of ideas, and hosting external speakers is one way of doing so.

‘The society does not necessarily endorse the views of our speakers and we encourage debate and discussion between students. We are saddened to write this statement but do so as attempted censorship on campus is no longer looming in the shadows but is vividly on display in one of the most prestigious universities in the world.’

A spokesperson for Bristol SU said: ‘As a charity we are bound to uphold the law and allow freedom of expression, even where our views may differ from the speakers invited.’

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: ‘We are aware that a protest took place at an event last week held by the Liberty Society. The University adheres to the principles of free speech and all views, including those that can be difficult to hear for some, should be able to be expressed and heard with tolerance and mutual respect.

‘The University respects the right to protest, however we recognise that we also have a duty to ensure this is carried out in a safe manner which doesn’t endanger others. Our Security Team were in attendance to ensure that the event was conducted safely. They identified that around 12 protestors were sitting in front of a fire exit from the room where the event was taking place and that they had linked arms and wouldn’t move.

‘This was carefully managed by our Security Team. Due to the health and safety issues associated with such actions the Police were called to attend and the protestors were escorted out of the building after the event.

‘We understand that the event went ahead as planned. If any individuals felt personally threatened, or have concerns about any aspect of the event, we would encourage them to report this.’ 

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