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KCL evacuated after masked protestors storm controversial event

A King’s Libertarian Society event was brought to a sudden close yesterday evening, after masked activists rushed the stage. 

At 18:51 on Monday evening, seven masked protesters entered the Edmond J. Safra Lecture Theatre, situated at the heart of Strand Campus, using violent means in attempts to disrupt the event, less than twenty minutes after it had begun.

Credit: Rohan. The moment the violence broke out

The event, organised by the King’s Libertarian Society, attempted to champion free speech by inviting controversial speakers: YouTuber Sargon of Akkad (Carl Benjamin) and Dr Yaron Brook, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ayn Rand Institute to discuss the philosophy of Objectivism, attributed to Russian-American writer, Ayn Rand.

Both speakers have come under heavy criticism in recent years. Yaron Brook has been criticised for his controversial political views, being a strong advocate of laissez-faire capitalism and the Objectivist theory that justifies rational selfishness as a moral virtue. Carl Benjamin has received public scrutiny for racist and misogynistic remarks featured in a number of his YouTube videos, and more recently has come under fire for comments he made about sexual assault directed towards Labour MP Jess Phillips.

Shortly before the disruption on campus occurred, Dr Brook and Mr Benjamin were discussing the nature of freedom of speech at places of education. This was disrupted by smoke bombs, released in the corridors of the Strand Campus, triggering the university smoke alarms and causing chaos.

“I’m not entirely sure what happened,” said one undergraduate, speaking to Roar, “I was standing in the courtyard when I heard a smash – I don’t know what was smashed exactly, but I definitely heard glass break. After that, I just left the courtyard, I wanted to be as far away from it all as possible.”

The attackers, who are alleged to be members of the ultra-left group Antifa, then forcefully broke into the Lecture Theatre, by charging down members of King’s security, injuring some in the process.

On entering the Lecture Theatre, one protester was seen grabbing the microphone from Mr. Benjamin, while the others surrounded the two speakers, shouting verbal abuse.

The activists brandished an ‘Antifa’ flag at the front of the stage as part of their opposition to the forms of fascist oppression that they believed the two speakers represented.

This was then followed by a violent incident between two members of the audience and one protester where several punches were thrown, until finally security were able to round up the activists towards the left exit of the Lecture Theatre. The Metropolitan Police stated they were called to the College at approximately 7pm, where the crowd had begun to disperse. Students who were attending the talk, quickly took to social media to express their views and film the events.

“The violence exhibited at yesterday’s event was absolutely disgusting,” said one witness to Roar, who did not wish to be named, “When the fire alarms went off, and punches started getting thrown, it was actually quite scary and sobering. If these so-called anti-fascist groups are trying to get a message across, then they went about it in obviously the completely wrong way. Violence doesn’t make anyone take you seriously, and really you become just as bad as the people you’re protesting against in the first place.”

A number of peaceful protesters who took places amongst the audience with covered faces, waved banners which featured comments such as ‘Students Fight the Alt-Right’ as part of their own attempts to disrupt the event.

Following from the attack, Dr Yaron Brook, one of the two scheduled speakers stated, “I arrived at the College at around 5.30, it was hard for me to get in, someone had to come and meet me. They took me to what they call the Green Room, a classroom right at the end, and they basically placed a guard outside for ‘my safety’…which I thought was pretty weird…We were about 12, 13 minutes into the event when suddenly we hear a real ruckus from outside, the door burst open…and then these thugs covered in black rushed on stage…And I’m saying ‘Look these are the real fascists. In my opinion this was caused by the administrators who succumbed to pressure from the leftist groups.”

Konstantin Tumanov, an undergraduate, also criticised King’s: “These events pose serious questions to the authorities of King’s, and most of us who witnessed this would certainly demand somebody takes personal responsibility for allowing this. The great irony is that KCL seemed more concerned with some potential intolerance from the speakers, thus sending a ‘safe-space marshal’ and an independent observer to the lecture. Good job, we all felt really safe that night…”

KCLSU Presidential Candidates expressed their dismay about the events. In a post on his campaign Facebook page, Theodor-Felix Niță writes that: “This is the result of a leader that seeks personal interest and group interest. If I will be elected I will restore dialogue and rational communication between all societies and all differences. This is a great damage to the freedom of speech, liberal circulations of ideas, and a great confusion between squares where you can protest in that way, and universities, where you can be invited to a dialogue. I am very concerned about the future of our Union that is going farther and farther from its purpose and endangers its own students instead of protecting them. Take action now and VOTE! It’s not too late to put KCLSU on a good and meaningful way.”

Ahad Mahmood, also running for KCLSU President, released an exclusive statement to Roar regarding the protests: “I would like to express my condolences and outrage at the vicious attack that took place on Campus yesterday. As individuals and as an institution we should always support the causes we believe in non violently. This act of aggression should be condemned and my heart goes out to the security guards that have been physically and mentally affected by this. I wish them a speedy recovery and hope there are no lasting consequences to them. For the many students who were attending the event as well as those that have become affected by what happened I again wish them a speedy recovery and pray that there are no lasting consequences. We MUST stand in solidarity, regardless of beliefs and regardless of views, against those that perpetrate violence.”

Current outgoing KCLSU President Momin Saqib reflected on his opinion, saying: “I am appalled by the acts perpetrated at the College…it is unfortunate that the event was marred by violence started by outside agitators, who took an extreme and unacceptable approach.”

The Libertarian Society has since issued an official statement explaining the event: ‘King’s College London & KCLSU administration failed to prevent violent and masked activists storming the stage and the university at tonight’s event…This was an act of violence, clearly intended to silence Yaron and Sargon’s planned debate, via a series of jackbooted totalitarian tactics that unfortunately proved successful tonight. The King’s College London Libertarian Society will continue to pursue our goal toward resisting any threats to freedom of speech. Speech, no matter how controversial, should never be met with violence.’

A comment from a College spokesperson states: ‘Last night’s event organised by King’s College London’s Libertarian Society had to be cancelled after protesters violently forced their way into the venue. The Police attended and we are fully co-operating with their investigation. We absolutely condemn the use of violent protest in any situation.

‘Universities provide an environment for open and uncensored debate from all sides on issues of political, scientific, moral, ethical and religious significance and where people have conflicting views. This should be able to take place without fear of violence or intimidation. King’s takes its responsibilities to provide a safe environment for free, peaceful and respectful dialogue very seriously. The university and Students’ Union will be reviewing the incident to decide on appropriate action to be taken


More information on the event to follow.



Words and Interviews: Rebekah Evans, William Nestor-Sherman, Irina Anghel

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