Head of Far-Right German Party Cancels Oxford Trip
Posted November 2, 2018 1:39 p.m. EDT
OXFORD, England — Citing security concerns, Alice Weidel, the leader of Germany’s far-right political party, has canceled an appearance at the University of Oxford.
Weidel, the leader of the Alternative for Germany party, had been scheduled to give a short speech Wednesday before the Oxford Union, a famed debating society, and to answer questions from audience members.
Facing widespread protest, Stephen Horvath, president of the Oxford Union, had steadfastly refused to cancel the event, citing the importance of free speech and the educational value of engaging with prominent politicians across Europe, regardless of their ideology.
On Friday, however, Horvath said in a statement that Weidel had decided to withdraw.
“Alice Weidel has canceled her planned trip to the U.K. next week due to concerns with the security arrangements for aspects of her travels and engagements,” the statement read.
Weidel did not respond to requests for comment. Horvath said he was open to rescheduling the event if she wished to participate.
Members of the Oxford community had been mobilizing against Weidel’s impending appearance, including through petitions and plans for a mass protest. One petition, circulated by three German students, had by Friday been signed by more than 250 Germans associated with Oxford as students, staff members or academics.
“We were wary of silence, of not speaking up, and where that could lead us,” said Kristina Kämpfer, a doctoral student at Oxford from Jena, Germany, and a co-author of the petition. “I was reminded of what we were taught in school and wanted to put it into practice, to speak up against Ms. Weidel and her platform.”
Weidel’s party, known as the AfD, has steadily risen to prominence in German politics and is known for its anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim positions. In national elections last year, it won 13 percent of the vote and became Germany’s third-largest party in Parliament.
The United States has experienced similar debates over whether and how to feature incendiary figures on its most prominent platforms. In September, the New Yorker caused an uproar after inviting Steve Bannon, the right-wing populist, to speak at its annual ideas festival. Under immense pressure, the New Yorker withdrew the invitation.