Outrage as YUSU Women’s Officer organises ‘anti-Tory’ march
She insists it’s organised ‘in a personal capacity’
Protesting sabbs have been told to resign by those angry at an anti-Tory march organised by a part-time Women’s Officer.
Following the results of the General Election, a protest has been organised to “fight the cuts, fight first past the post, and fight the Tories”.
Katherine Mellor, one of the part-time YUSU Women’s Officers, has created a Facebook event, “Emergency Rally: Democracy Now”. It is described as a rally against the “undemocratic” First Past the Post voting system and to “stand together against the Tories”.
Mellor defended the march saying Conservatives posed a direct threat to students.
Katherine Mellor defended the march. She said: “I am organising this protest because the Conservative party pose a direct threat to the safety and well-being of some of the most vulnerable people in society. I believe the ‘first past the post’ system has contributed to their re-election. Similar protests are being held up and down the country.
“Unfortunately, abusive messages were posted on the event page, and sent to me and other people privately. As I result, I have been forced to begin actively removing users and deleting comments, to try and protect myself and my peers from harassment and undue distress. I stand by that decision.
“Everyone has freedom of speech, and our right to have a say in who governs us does not end at the polls. Acting to protect the mental wellbeing of myself and my friends from antagonistic, derailing tactics on a Facebook page I have admin control of is not a violation of anyone’s freedom of speech. Attempting to silence the voices of minorities telling you they are under threat by being intimidating, invasive and offensive is.
“I would further like to state that I am organising this event in a personal capacity, and to remind everyone that part-time officers are allowed and even encouraged to have lives outside of their YUSU jobs.”
The protest has led to students feeling excluded and attacked because of their political opinions.
Other students had concerns about noise disrupting their exams.
Jack Alexander said: “Sorry to be a bore, but if going across campus was part of your planned route could you please reconsider to respect those students that have exams at this time.”
Third year, Tom Davies has countered this Facebook page with his own, “I’m a York student and not protesting the election results”. He exclusively told The Tab:
“My chief opposition to the scheduled event was that it appeared to be disingenuously using support for electoral reform as an excuse to protest against the democratic election result which they very clearly did not like.
“As a Liberal Democrat and a big supporter of proportional representation this got under my skin a bit, as you can appreciate. I think Katherine Mellor is perfectly entitled to her opinion and the right to organize a legal, peaceful protest if she wishes, my initial goal was only to attempt to get the event organizers to be honest about what their protest was, an anti tory march.
“I made the point that if PR was introduced and UKIP had 70 seats or so, you could bet your life they’d be protesting that as well. It fills me with great pride than within an hour my counter event page has gotten more attendees than the protest and continues to grow.
“I created the event as an outlet for those who wanted to move on from the election with good humour and, whatever their political allegiance, to make their opinion known, and I’m glad to see both a lot of humour and serious, uncensored discussion between those of differing opinions.”
YUSU Officers have also waded into the post-election debate and have caused upset amongst students who voted for them under the impression they would be impartial and fully representative, which they now not appearing to be. Students were angered not only by a YUSU part-time officer creating the event, but also by the YUSU President, Sam Maguire, for sharing and inviting people to it.
Daniel Herr posted on the event: “Could every single YUSU officer who was elected by my vote to represent my views as a student and who are meant to be impartial IMMEDIATELY resign their post. Holding this anti-tory bashing opposite the YUSU office and having impartial YUSU officers promote this event is absolutely NOT OK and is a disgrace to this union.”
The officers have been quick to express that the protest is not associated with their roles in YUSU, but students have challenged their online actions.
Second year, Kate Dye, said about the Women’s Officer creating such an event: “I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable going with personal issues to someone who is so willing to plaster her own views across social media.
“I don’t think I would trust someone like that to be giving impartial advice, which is her role as Women’s Officer, without judgement, since it’s obvious she has no problem judging others.”
YUSU President, Sam Maguire, released a meak statement on Facebook, after sharing both events on his own Facebook page. It said: “I have been thinking about maybe having a post-election debate hosted either by YUSU, one of our societies or an external party such as inviting the York Union to do it, on campus and after exams?
“We could talk about the big issues raised on both events that I have shared such as should we move to a different voting system, should we worried [sic] about the newly elected government and even discuss whether YUSU officers should be able to demonstrate party allegiances. We could do it in a way were [sic] everyone can have their say (as long as it is not personal attacks) and isn’t on social media?”
While some students were outraged by the protest, other students were very supportive of Katherine Mellor’s decision.
Second year, Evie Brill Paffard, said: “If students feel angered at the political system and the current government, then I see no reason why they shouldn’t protest against it like countless others up and down the country.
“Whether you are a YUSU officer or not, you still have the right to express your views as an individual.”