Words || Max Lewis
Last night the Macquarie University Liberal Club held an event titled ‘A Moment of Truth: Is it the new hate speech?” The event featured Mark Latham, Avi Yemini, Sydney Watson, Nella & Craig Hall, and Filip Despotoski as speakers, and aimed to address the question, “Are conservatives too pessimistic in the 21st century?”
A student, Maab, was refused entry into the event after it had been going for one hour. Maab alleges she wasn’t let in because the event was “at capacity” and “a safety issue” yet both her friend and Grapeshot reporters who were present have confirmed that there was ample seating and standing room.
In a statement to Grapeshot, Maab said:
“My friend had sent me some snaps of a rally happening at university and some of the videos involved people chanting against islamophobia. Being a Muslim, this intrigued me and I asked where he was as I wanted to join in. I was advised that it was a ticketed event however, the tickets were also free. Without hesitation I tried to enter the theatre, with the genuine intention of listening to what these people had to say and why others were rallying against them. Unfortunately, the security stopped me from entering stating, “the theatre has reached full capacity”. I responded saying, “I could stand like the others are at the back or sit on the stairs,” but they stated it would be a fire safety issue.
I backed down and sat outside listening to parts of the presentation that were able to be heard outside. Inside however, my friend was telling the security guards that he had saved a seat for me and that I could sit there. He also stated that were multiple seats available. I walked over after noticing the commotion being caused between the security and my friend.
The security then advised me that they wish to inhibit any potential disturbance and would not allow me to go in and told [my friend] that he had to go back and sit down and be quiet.
I sat outside for a bit again, hoping the security would let me in as people continued to leave. I was rather confused as to why I was being denied my right to sit and listen respectfully, without any intention of disturbing someones presentation. In the end I decided it was best I go home as it seemed pointless waiting for a chance to see our guests present.”
When asked if Maab felt she was discriminated against, she said, “All I know for certain is that I wasn’t let in into the venue that everyone else (none of which wear a hijab) was allowed entry into until I arrived. Did the fact that I wear a hijab cause security to deny my entry into the venue or did they decide to randomly intervene and not let others in at that point in time? Who am I to say what the intentions were? But then again, actions speak louder than words.”
Grapeshot Editor-in-Chief James Booth also faced difficulty gaining entry into the event:
“Upon approaching the door I introduced myself as the EIC of grapeshot and was told that “I’m a smart man and should have known to register”, yet I watched countless men in front of me get let in without so much as a check as to who they are, why they were attending or if they had registered. To top it off we had a member of the Young Liberal Club determined that we weren’t going to be let in, repeating “there is no way we’re letting you in.”
It could have been my jacket with three Queer badges that set them off, or maybe my brown skin which made me prone to being a “crazy lefty” by default. But I find it strange that I was flagged as a potential protester simply by arriving. I was later told inside that I had to understand why they would have determined me as a potential threat given my obvious political views. Which raises the question as to whether an event in which the speakers spoke actively about the power of respectful debate, and the problems with silencing political opinions you don’t agree with, really sought out to practice what they preach. Especially given that all “crazy lefties” were actively prevented from even being a part of the discussion.”
The Vice President of Development of Macquarie University Liberal Club, Damien Pace, has said of the event:
“It’s not our intent to have exclusionary events. Our club events as a rule are open to all. This was our first event to have a registration process as we expected there would be a high likelihood of disruption. We didn’t want a repeat of last years protest inside our SSM debate which closed the event down and was distressing for all people who legitimately attended. In addition the venue had limited seating and was at full capacity on the night. The C5C forum was the largest venue available.
Nonetheless, people to my knowledge weren’t turned away at the door and I made sure everyone who asked was allowed in, including Grapeshot.”
Grapeshot will issue an in-depth response to the ‘A Moment of Truth’ event soon.