Image credit: Russia Today

Confusion over proposed appearance of EDL speaker

Image credit: Russia Today
Image credit: Russia Today

After a day of confusion, the appearance of a former member of the controversial English Defence League at the University of York next January is in doubt.

York Vision, the award-winning campus newspaper, claims to be the host of a co-founder of the English Defence League in January 2017, it was announced by York student Jayh Karia this afternoon.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known by his pseudonym Tommy Robinson, would visit the University of York in January 2017 to speak about to “free speech, liberty and ‘the police state’.”

However, the University of York Students’ Union is yet to receive a formal application from York Vision to host the event, meaning that until this condition is met, no event featuring Robinson will occur. Alex Lusty, Activities Officer of the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU), told The Yorker:

A student society had planned to bring Tommy Robinson to campus, but has since cancelled the event. YUSU have not been approached by any other student group wishing to host Mr. Robinson.

The Yorker understands that the event will not officially occur under York Vision‘s banner unless organisers comply with the student union’s regulations on event hosting and management.

Tickets to see Robinson went online at 11:38am today. Though neither the host nor the campus location had been made public, tickets sold out within an hour.

These findings follow large confusion yesterday and earlier this morning after the original hosts, Nouse‘s ‘Nouse Events’, postponed the event, then withdrew. It was announced by an organiser, student Jayh Karia, that a new host group had been found, but until late this afternoon, Karia declined to reveal the identity of the new host.

Before deleting its event page, Nouse ended its involvement with the project, writing on Facebook:

Further to our previous posts, Nouse understands that the event has now been picked up by another York student media outlet in more or less its current form, and would therefore like to officially announce its disaffiliation from the event. This page will be removed shortly.

At 15:40 today, Karia revealed that ‘York Talks’, a branch of the campus newspaper York Vision, plans to host Robinson in January. The Yorker understands that this is not the same as the University of York’s lecture series, also named ‘York Talks’, which will be held on January 11th.

York Vision is the most-awarded student-run newspaper in the country, winning a number of Guardian Student Media Awards as recently as 2014. Despite this, York Vision has not printed in over two months.

Robinson’s proposed appearance on campus has drawn widespread criticism on social media. Many have condemned students for “giving fascism a platform.” Robinson responded to these via Twitter yesterday:

Elsewhere, the Socialist Society announced on Facebook that it intended to acquire as many tickets as possible but boycott the event, leaving as many seats empty as possible. Furthermore, according to social media users within the Socialist Society, Dom Smithies, the student union’s Community and Wellbeing Officer, will organise a protest against Robinson’s appearance.

The Yorker continues to monitor this developing story.

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Jack Harvey
Comment and Politics Editor 2015/2016, Editor 2016/2017. History and Philosophy undergraduate.