University 'appalled' by MP attack - University of Sussex statement
Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove and Portslade, was invited on to campus by the Conservative Society at the University of Sussex, to debate the new law that makes it a criminal offence to squat in residential properties. Mr Weatherly was instrumental in the introduction of the law.
Mr Weatherley was due to speak this lunchtime at the Asa Briggs Lecture Theatre in a debate open to all our students. He was due to discuss why he supported the new law and to discuss the opposition it has faced.
A violent protest prevented the event from taking place.
The University’s response to these events is: "We are appalled to hear that Mike Weatherley was prevented from speaking on campus by a group of protestors.
"We believe that the violent disruption was led by activist protestors from outside of the University, not by our students.
"We maintain a policy of freedom of speech on campus that is fundamental to the nature of academic institutions.
"It is a very positive aspect of British society that individuals responsible for important aspects of public life are willing to debate and discuss their actions and approaches.
"We successfully hold talks on campus from a wide range of people. Where protests have taken place in the past, they have been conducted in a peaceful way.
"We had appropriate security measures in place to protect our students and visitors as a matter of contingency - and we were able to put those into effect in this case.
"We are giving help and support to the police over the incident, and if there is any evidence of violent actions by our students we would of course provide that to them.
"We deeply regret that Mr Weatherley was not only unable to give his talk, depriving him and our students of any chance to discuss the issues concerned, but that he was prevented from doing so in such an aggressive manner.
“We also deeply regret the distress caused to Mr Weatherley and his staff as visitors to our campus, and the distress to our students who were involved in organising the talk.”
'Outrageous attack' MP Weatherley says after punches thrown and rocks hurled at University clash
Mike Weatherley, the Conservative MP for Hove and Portslade, has labelled his attackers "pro-squatter thugs" after an incident at the University of Sussex this afternoon.
The MP said he was invited by students to talk about his involvement in changing the law to criminalise squatting.
However, just before the debate was to start, a "large mob of non-students surrounded Mike and threatened him," he said.
Security officials barricaded the MP and his staff into a room until police arrived.
Mr Weatherley said: “It’s absolutely outrageous that a peaceful event such as this should be hijacked by a group of violent thugs. As soon as I walked in to the lecture theatre someone attempted to punch me.
"The event was immediately abandoned, but as we tried to leave, rocks were hurled, and two female members of my staff were injured.
"The squatters have regularly attempted to stop free speech from taking place for the precise reason that they cannot justify their criminal behaviour."
Sussex University said: ”We are appalled to hear that Mike Weatherley was prevented from speaking on campus by a group of protestors - not our students.”
Just before 1.50pm on Wednesday 14 November, police were called to the Silverstone Building in Arts Road on the University of Sussex campus at Falmer, after a report of a disturbance.
A group of people were outside the building where Mike Weatherly MP was present. Officers took Mr Weatherly to safety in a police van. It is understood that there are no reports of injury at this time.