Despite the widespread outrage, the Oxford Union debating society went ahead on Monday with plans for an evening debate featuring David Irving, a British author jailed in Austria in 2005 for denying the Holocaust, and Nick Griffin, leader of the fascist British National Party, acquitted by a British court last year of stirring racial hatred.
Protesters planning to demonstrate against the debate include several university societies such as the Student Union, Unite Against Fascism, as well as a rare alliance between the Muslim and Jewish societies. Other groups involved in the protest include Oxford & District Trades Council, Oxford University Labour Club, Oxfordshire UNISON Health, and Oxford Brookes University Unison branch.
"This is not about freedom of speech, it's about providing a free platform to disseminate fear in the British community of Jews, Asians, and black people," Denis MacShane, a Labour MP and former minister, who pulled out of an Oxford debate because of the invitation told the Christian Science Monitor.
Oxford colleges e-mailed their students warning them to stay in their rooms, and many colleges were planning to lock their doors this evening, amid fears that there could be a counter-demonstration by far-right activists which could turn violent.
A call to action from Unite Against Fascism reads in part:
"The Oxford Union should not be providing a platform for fascist British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin and Holocaust denier David Irving in the Free Speech Forum. There is a world of difference between defending free speech and choosing to provide a platform for fascists."
Far from being the champions of free speech history shows that when fascists rise to power they destroy freedom of speech, democracy, human rights and they have murdered millions of people and attempted to annihilate entire communities. Wherever fascists have a presence, violence and intimidation increases."
Fascism threatens the safety of Black, Jewish, Muslim, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of Oxford including students and academics. Wherever fascists are active or have a presence, racist attacks and other hate crimes increase."
The following is from the Oxford Mail
Protesters gather at Oxford Union
Protesters have begun to gather outside the Oxford Union where historian David Irving and BNP leader Nick Griffin will speak later tonight.
Both are due to take part in the Union's free speech forum, but it has sparked controversy over whether the pair should be given a platform.
Around ten coachloads of anti-facist protesters from around the country are due to arrive at 7pm.
But many have already gathered outside the Union, in St Michael's Street, ahead of the controversial debate.
Representatives from Unison were joined by campaigners from Unite, as well as Jewish and Muslim groups.
Weyman Bennett, of Unite Against Fascism, said: "It's up to the good people here to stand together against fascism and say we don't want in this or any country."
Student rabbi and Oxford Union member David Mitchell said: "It's utterly horrendous. I can't believe Oxford Union is giving creditability to these people and I will be resigning my membership in the morning."
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told the Commons earlier today it was up to the debating society to make its own decision about allowing Mr Irving and Mr Griffin to attend the freedom of speech event.
Ms Smith, an Oxford graduate, said in Home Office Questions: "I thoroughly deplore the sentiments, the expressed views and the actions of both of the gentlemen due to be speaking at the Oxford Union society this evening."
She said there was legislation which she hoped would be used if they "overstepped the mark".
Conservative frontbencher Julian Lewis, MP for New Forest East, resigned his life membership of the Oxford Union in protest at the decision to invite the pair to speak.