Correction: This article has been updated to remove speculation that the Antifa protests may have been connected to strike action, and that university officials directly requested that the event be cancelled just before it started.
This evening an event scheduled to take place at Kings College London at 630pm had to be cancelled after violent masked activists stormed the event, throwing smoke bombs and causing chaos which left one person hospitalised.
Organiser of the event Danny Al-Khafaji speaking exclusively to The Backbencher stated that the KCL Student Union hadn’t wanted the event to go ahead but after submitting requests well in advance and agreeing that the event would not be livestreamed the Student Union finally agreed to admit any member of public who had bought a ticket. Many had travelled across the country to attend, but at the last minute the Student Union went back on their word and refused them entry.
Witness Elizabeth Hobson, who had travelled from North London hoping to attend stated: ‘I travelled to the event but an hour before the student union decided that non-KCL students wouldn’t be allowed in. A lot of people stayed in the reception hall hoping they might change their minds. Then maybe six masked people barged in and tried to jump the barriers but were knocked back by security, at which point they threw a smoke bomb setting off the fire alarms.’
The talk then went ahead, with a student audience only. But approximately 20 minutes in – apparently at a moment when the speakers were specifically talking about free speech – masked, black-clad Antifa activists stormed over barriers and past security guards, roughly making their way through audience members to take the stage. One individual was not masked and was a KCL student known to the organiser.
The speakers were harassed verbally but stayed calm. At this point it also appeared that many activists had also been sitting quietly in the audience as plants, waiting for this moment to join the protests.
According to several sources Antifa were throwing punches, and at least one security guard who was assaulted is in hospital – at least two ambulances were seen on the strand. Antifa violence also caused serious damage to university buildings – glass panels which are a central part of KCL’s architecture were smashed.
At this point the event organiser also received what may be a threat, written on a sheet that contained Antifa chants. ‘The guy moderating the talk is on my courseand he’ll have a difficule time once the strike is over’.
A note written on the sheet that contained the threat also stated ‘text the others outside, if there’s only one security guard we’ll block them and let everyone in and on stage and take their mikes away.’
These protests appeared to be highly coordinated and had been extremely well organised in advance. Al-Khafaji, who is Vice President of the KCL Libertarian Society also stated that yesterday a group was set up on Facebook to ‘expel white supremacists from campus’, which involved pro Palestinian and feminist campus groups.
Al-Khafaji explained that the KCL Student Union wished to prevent the event from going ahead. Before it started he found himself whisked off into a room where two male officials in dark suits (one a university staff member and the other an SU representative) told him that for the event to take place as planned he would be obliged to highlight the university safe space policy before the event in as neutral a manner as possible, and that he would have to stop the event if three people complained of having been offended. He complied with these requests, but was informed that these officials could stop the event at any time, which they did once protests started. Despite explaining that he did not wish to allow these bullies to shut down the free speech of those present he was forced to go back to the theatre and explain the event was cancelled because the protesters had let off flairs which had set off fire alarms and the building had to be evacuated.
Both the YouTuber Sargon of Akkad (aka Carl Benjamin) and Yaron Brook, current chairman of the board at the Ayn Rand Institute were scheduled to speak at the event. Benjmin is that host of ‘This Week in Stupid’ on YouTube, which draws audiences of more than 300k on a weekly basis. When University officials finally pulled the plug on the event after those protesting had left Benjamin and Brook then held an impromptu question and answer session on the Strand. According to witnesses Brook said that Antifa have a right to protest as long as they don’t shut down other people’s free speech, and Benjamin said “fuck the alt-right” just before Antifa shut down the event, and took an Antifa flag that had been left on stage with him when he left.
North London Antifa celebrated the removal of Benjamin’s platform and claimed credit for the attack:
Tonight a group of student and anti-fascist activists successfully shut down an 'alt-right' talk at Kings College. Here's alt-right mouthpiece 'Sargon of Akkad' after he was forced to leave the building, no platform for him tonight! pic.twitter.com/ZolONTodHY
— North London Antifa (@NorthLondonAF) March 5, 2018
Benjamin is a self-proclaimed centrist, drawing the ire of both the right and the hard left. Many on the left view him as part of the ‘alt-right’ because of his rejection of intersectional social-justice ideologies. However Benjamin has made it very clear that he opposes all extremist ideologies, including white nationalism, and does not consider himself a member of the alt-right.