Katie Hopkins, the right-wing columnist, and media personality — known for her vitriolic, hateful column inches and Twitter outbursts — was due to give a talk at an event on November 25th as part of the Lewes Speakers Festival. However, a collective of radicals numbering over 150 people from numerous groups across Sussex came together to do some direct action to ensure the event did not go ahead. Sussex Police cancelled the event on the grounds of safety after it became apparent that activists blockading the All Saints Centre were not going to allow the hate-filled talk to go ahead.
A small number of attendees did try and get into the event but were turned away by the crowd. Soon after, news of the cancellation by Sussex Police spread among those protesting leading to a celebratory cacophony of noise. Subsequently, heated debate sparked up between demonstrators and those wanting to attend the talk. Attendees commonly cited concern for Hopkins’ rights to free speech and doubts as to whether Hopkins actually writes content published in her name. With many would-be attendees espousing similar xenophobic and racist views after getting irked by the demonstration, their thinly veiled defence of Hopkins quickly fell apart, shedding light on real reasoning for attendance.
Many of those in the demonstration questioned the decision of Lewes Town Council to invite Katie Hopkins to the Lewes Speakers Festival, knowing her record and reputation. Question marks now loom over Marc Rattray and the decision to allow the event to go ahead. Rattray had previously defended Hopkins right to free speech, accepting the talk would be “controversial.” Such a view did not sit well with those demonstrating due to examples of previous articles written by Hopkins comparing migrants and refugees to cockroaches, which has been likened to fascist propaganda.
Furthermore, LBC sacked the right-wing personality in the wake of the Manchester bombings after a tweet that called for a “final solution”, with suggestions likening the wording to Nazi rhetoric. Lewes Speakers Festival have it very wrong on this occasion – far right views are not controversial — they are unacceptable and have no place in our communities where we should be fighting against all oppression and injustice. This idea was shown to have strength last night where community organising against the far-right in Sussex has shown that yet again, direct action works. It is evident that wherever racist and xenophobic hatred rears its ugly head, radical opposition will always organise against it.