Snow, Strikes and Smoke Bombs

Now, I can’t and won’t claim that this is the most eventful seven days King’s has ever had – after all, the school has been around in one form or another since 1829 so it’s seen a lot – but if we were ranking them I would put it near the top. The coldest UK spring day on record and strikes that meant only 11% of lectures and seminars ran at the Strand campus might be one thing, but now we have smoke bombs to add to the list.

The Strand and King’s buildings were evacuated Monday evening due to Antifa protesters storming a talk from alt-right speaker Carl Benjamin, who goes by the moniker Sargon of Akkad online and is openly anti-feminist and anti-progressive. The talk was part of a ‘free speech’ even by the KCL Libertarian Society that was called off when physical fights broke out, reportedly causing injuries to staff and security personnel. Threats were also made to the moderators of the talk.

As you might have seen in your email inboxes, King’s has condemned the protests and are working with the police to determine the identities of the masked individuals involved.

Now, I can’t say I agree with Benjamin’s politics, nor do I align myself with the Libertarian Society and their aims to remove the Safe Space policy that KCLSU has, but violent protest doesn’t seem like the way to go. The only thing the Antifa protestors have achieved is to make themselves look like the unreasonable side of the argument.

These protests didn’t take place in a bubble – we’ve all seen saturation of school shooting-related US news recently, and running into a place of learning wearing balaclavas can only be taken as an action specifically designed to insight fear. The UK might not have the same gun problem that America does, but even the National Theatre changed its mind about the staging of an assassination in their recent production of Network due to the current political and social climate. The protestors might not have aimed to harm students, but they definitely aimed to scare them.

Setting up a dialogue with people like Benjamin is important. He might not be changing his mind any time soon but a civil debate can help others see the flaws in his thinking and convince them to form different views, but the protestors only managed to make headlines as villains in this story, not people with genuine points of argument.

Between this recent news, the ongoing strikes, and the snow (now but a fond memory), KCL life has seemed rather hectic despite the lack of teaching going on. I hope I’m not the only one who feels vaguely like they’ve entered into some kind of alternate reality that’s racing towards a dystopian future…