Riot warning over Oxford union’s invitation to racist leader


London : A controversial Oxford University debate to be addressed Monday night by the head of the racist British National Party, Nick Griffin, and pro-Nazi historian David Irving has sparked a high-profile resignation and warning that riots may follow.

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The police warnings of riots came after a senior Tory MP, shadow defence minister Dr Julian Lewis, resigned his membership of the Oxford Union Sunday in protest at the invitation to the two controversial men.

Up to 1,000 protesters are expected to gather when BNP leader Griffin speaks at the debate, which will also be addressed by Irving, who served a year in an Australian jail last year for denying the Holocaust in a speech. Holocaust-denial is a crime in Australia.

Fearing trouble, police are expected to deploy plainclothes agents and erect a ‘ring of steel’ outside the historic chamber where the debate will be held, British media reported Monday.

After death threats received by organisers of an event that has already been slammed as racist and offensive, all guests will be searched for bottles and other missiles.

“It is likely to be an extremely confrontational evening,” a police source was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

“While everyone is hoping for a peaceful debate, certain people have made it clear they will target it and are intent on violence.”

Meanwhile, in a letter to the Oxford Union, Lewis said the students should be ashamed of themselves.

“Nothing which happens in Monday’s debate can possibly offset the boost you are giving to a couple of scoundrels who can put up with anything except being ignored,” he said.

“They have been exposed and discredited time and again by people vastly more qualified than you in arenas hugely more suited to the task than an undergraduate talking-shop, however venerable.

“The only good to have come from this self-indulgent behaviour is the fact that Muslims and Jewish students are working together to condemn the appalling message you have sent to their communities.”

The move by Oxford Union has also been criticised by the London-based Commission for Racial Equality, whose chairman Trevor Phillips said Sunday: “This is not a question of freedom of speech, this is a juvenile provocation.”

Luke Tryl, president of the Oxford Union Debating Society, defended his move, saying it was important to give people of all views a platform.

“There will be other speakers to challenge and attack their views,” he said.