School cancels talk by right-wing journalist Milo Yiannopoulos after DfE intervenes

21st November 2016 at 17:14
milo yiannopoulos
The editor at the right-wing Breitbart website was due to address sixthformers at the grammar school he attended, but the school says it was cancelled after it was contacted by the DfE counter extremism unit

A talk by the outspoken journalist Milo Yiannopoulos has been cancelled by school staff after intervention from the Department for Education's counter extremism unit.

Mr Yiannopoulos was due to speak tomorrow to 220 students at Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury, Kent, where he was once a pupil.

The journalist, who is an editor at the Breitbart right-wing website, has in the past equated feminism with cancer and told women who felt threatened by online harassment that they should simply log off their computers. Other targets have included Islam and the Black Lives Matter movement.

He was also a prominent supporter of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

On his Facebook page, Mr Yiannopoulos claimed the school had been "bullied" into cancelling the event.

A spokesman for the school said: "This decision was taken following contact from the DfE counter extremism unit, the threat of demonstrations at the school by organised groups and members of the public and our overall concerns for the security of the school site and the safety of our community.

"We note that, within 24 hours of advertising the event, 220 Langton sixth formers had, with parental consent, signed up for the event and that objection to our hosting Mr Yiannopoulos came almost entirely from people with no direct connection to The Langton. The staff and students of the school were overwhelmingly in favour.

"Whilst disappointed that both the pastoral care and intellectual preparation we offer to our students has been called into question, we at The Langton remain committed to the principle of free speech and open debate and will resist, where possible, all forms of censorship."

Mr Yiannopoulos wrote on his Facebook page: “My old high school has been bullied into cancelling my talk on Tuesday by the ‘counter extremism’ unit at the UK Department of Education.

‘Who even knew the DoE had a counter-extremism unit? And that it wasn’t set up to combat terrorism but rather to punish gays with the wrong opinions? Perhaps if I’d called the speech “MUSLIMS ARE AWESOME!” they’d have left us alone. Disgusted.”

Twitter shut down Mr Yiannopoulos account with them in the summer due to comments he made about Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the decision to cancel the talk had been "a matter for the school".

They said: “When concerns are raised by members of the public following media coverage in advance of an event, the department would contact the school as a matter of routine to check they had considered any potential issues."

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