An anti-fascist (Antifa) Facebook group chat, which included Kent Union officers, discussed intent to ‘bait people into being abusive’ at Carl Benjamin’s controversial talk at the University, while ignoring requests from the Union to contact security for student safety.
Carl Benjamin, a controversial YouTuber known digitally as Sargon of Akkad, was invited by the Liberty Union to speak on campus back in November amidst backlash from various societies and the students’ union.
A petition was launched by student activists in a bid to deplatform the 39-year-old weeks before the event was scheduled to go ahead.
According to a committee member from the Feminist Society, the petition was created by a “loose coalition of people from multiple societies and within the Canterbury community”.
The group has been identified as the UKC Anti-Fascists, organised in the Facebook group chat ‘Kent Anteefah Lads’. The group chat was created in order to clean up Nazi graffiti that was found on campus on 9 November, the anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Members of the group included around forty student activists, many of whom were committee members of the Feminist Society, Marxist Society, Labour Society and an associate lecturer from the School of English. Four Kent Union officers, including Vice-President (Welfare) Omolade Adedapo, were also members of this secretive group.
Omolade Adedapo (Green), who was elected VP Welfare in 2018 was part of the secretive chat
After pressure from the coalition of societies to cancel Benjamin’s lecture, the Union released a statement on 22 November, stating: “We recommended to the University that permission to speak be denied due to the views expressed by Benjamin in the past and our belief that, given the speaker’s controversial views regarding rape culture, religion and race, there is a high risk that the speaker would incite hatred on the grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation and thus that the law could be broken.
“Kent Union’s trustees then separately considered the risk of our Society hosting the event and have decided that there is a serious risk that the law will be broken and there is a risk to student safety if the event goes ahead (similar events with Benjamin speaking at other campuses have resulted in violence).”
The University, however, “gave permission for the event to go ahead because of their legal obligation to uphold freedom of speech on campus but has imposed strict conditions, including the presence of a controlling officer”.
Further plans were made by Antifa to demonstrate outside the event venue, Chipperfield Lecture Theatre, in direct response Benjamin’s presence on campus. Despite the Union’s insistence upon safe and peaceful protests, the activists intended to ‘bait people into being abusive’ while ignoring requests from the Union to talk to security prior to the protest. The message was followed by agreement from three active members of the chat.
Screenshots from the Antifa chat
On 27 November, an active member of the chat sent: “The plan is to hand out leaflets with Carl Benjamin’s most virulent anti-semitic comments and try and bait people into being abusive.”
Nelle Porter, the President of the Feminist Society and the group chat’s administrator, told InQuire that their intention was not to incite violence.
“We only assumed that, due to Carl’s nature and due to his fans nature, that they would end up being abusive,” she said.
Another active member replied on the group chat: “Whatever you do, don’t appear violent yourself.”
According to Ms. Porter and other members, they had considered the potential likelihood of a violent response from Benjamin’s loyal supporters.
To “ensure our safety,” the activists filmed the event, despite request from Liberty President Tom Colsy, not to do so during the lecture.
Ms. Porter did not trust “members of UKIP to keep me safe”, referring to some UKIP and Liberty Union members who acted as stewards at the event; but the group did not, after being asked three times, speak to security or warn members of the Union to ensure student safety.
On 21 November, a member of the chat received an email from Kent Union asking: “The head of security has heard about the protest and would like to have a chat with whoever is planning/running it. I heard that might be you. Would you be able to get in contact with him?”
Security said they received no offer to talk before the event.
The next day, a second request was made to Ms. Porter by Union staff. She relayed to the group chat that the staff member had “said it will be a good idea to touch base when we know if the event is cancelled or not to talk about the next steps - protesting or changing the format or the event”.
The member of staff told InQuire that the group did not touch base with her again about a planned protest.
On the day of the event, 28 November, the group was again asked to contact security. Vice-President (Activities) Sasha Langeveldt, sent a private message to Porter, who subsequently sent it to the Antifa chat: “If there is any type of protest happening today, could you please let the Union know so we can ensure your safety. Please email campus security. This doesn’t mean you’ll be in trouble.”
After a discussion on the chat, the group decided to ignore Ms. Langeveldt’s request.
Facebook confirms that Ms. Adedapo, along with three other part-time Union officers, had “read” the three messages concerning student safety, including those about baiting abuse.
The president of Kent Union and members of staff said these messages were not reported to them by those Union officers who were in the group chat.
When questioned on their involvement, the Union officers that were active in the chat denied seeing any of the aforementioned messages, saying they “would have reported it if they had”.
Porter “obviously knew” Union members were part of the group chat. She was unconcerned that what was said on the chat could have been reported to other Union members.
Kent Union president, Aaron Thompson, said protestors should “absolutely” tell security about protests and that “safety is our main concern at all times”.
Though activists were aware of potential violent responses, neither security nor the Union were warned.
Porter told InQuire: “[The] Union were not taking the proper precautions. I don’t trust the Union to be able to ensure our safety any more than the security already there.”
At the event, no violence took place. The University asked security to monitor the event. Members of the Antifa group handed out flyers and recorded people as they entered the building.
Later, Porter told InQuire: “[I] wouldn’t call it a protest. I would call it a group of students against the speaker who wanted to voice that. Protest is a heavy word.”