Stand Up to Racism Oxford and Unite Against Fascism have come together to organise a protest coinciding with Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party leader Alice Weidel’s visit to the Oxford Union.
The AfD is the third largest party in the German Bundestag, but Stand Up to Racism Oxford’s Ian McKendrick argues that the party “built up its following by stoking up racism against migrants, Muslims, and refugees.”
As a member of parliament for the Baden-Württemberg region since 2017, Weidel has been outspoken on such issues, however claims that her own motivation for joining the party came from their anti-Euro stance.
Speaking on behalf of the Union, Union President Stephen Horvath defended its decision to invite Weidel.
He reiterated the organisation’s commitment to political neutrality and free speech, and also emphasised the fact that Union members would be afforded the opportunity to challenge Weidel and ask her questions once her initial speech was over.
Horvath told Cherwell: “The Oxford Union remains committed to the principles of political neutrality and free speech, and we invite a variety of political leaders from different countries and competing ideological camps.
“In recent years, those perspectives featured and questioned at the Union have ranged from Julius Malema, leader of the radically leftist Economic Freedom Fighters in South Africa, to Marine Le Pen.
“Alice Weidel is the leader of the largest opposition party in the German Parliament. After Dr Weidel’s speech in the Union’s debating Chamber, members will be welcome to ask her questions, and challenge her views if they wish.”
Concern about the AfD has risen in recent months following claims of its links to neo-Nazi groups in Germany. In September, their Thuringian leader, Björn Höcke, was one of several key party members who marched alongside far-right protest group Pegida in Chemnitz.
The ‘silent march’, as it was advertised, was called for by the party to honour the death of a local man, who was allegedly stabbed by an immigrant to Germany.
Expressing surprise at the idea that Weidel’s speakership invitation was controversial enough to merit protest, an AfD spokesperson told Cherwell: “The AfD is a constitutional state party.
“In the AfD, there are no members who are or were members of a far-right party. I think the protesters do not know what fascism and what racism is.”
Labour MP for Oxford East, Anneliese Dodds, expressed her disapproval at the invitation, saying: “It is very concerning to hear that the Oxford Union has gone out of its way to court a far-right politician in this way.”
Oxford City Councillor John Tanner described the planned visit as “an insult to the University, to Oxford’s minority communities and to all of us who believe in an open and multi-racial society.”
This is not the first time that the Union has been criticised for allegedly giving racism a platform in Oxford, past speakers include Tommy Robinson and Marine Le Pen.
Weidel’s speech is scheduled to begin at the Union at 8pm on 7th November. Protestors will gather from 6pm on St Michael’s Street.