I posted last night about the violent resistance mounted by Antifa storm troopers against the participation of Filip Dewinter in a debate at the University of Ghent. Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated some more background material about the incident for Gates of Vienna, and it is collected in the report below.
The Flemish nationalist NSV (Nationalist Students Association) wrote in its press release prior to the meeting:
In response to the debate and protest action on October 7 in the “Blandijn”
The NSV is outraged by the attitude of its political opponents in response to the debate on cooperation between Flanders and the Netherlands, Tuesday, October 7, 2008 in the “Blandijn” at the University of Ghent. It came to our attention that two hours in advance a number of groups occupied this auditorium under the guise of “a peaceful protest action, no forum for hatred and violence in our university”. Here we would like to add three side notes:
1. “Peaceful” — The occupation of public property to keep people out cannot with the best will in the world be regarded as peaceful. This is a blatant provocation that has its origin in pure frustration among such groups. For many years they have tried to accuse NSV of violence, hatred, racism and more such kindnesses. But once it comes to the point, such as in the demonstration March 6 this year, it is immediately clear from what direction violence really originates. This “peaceful protest action” is a transparent attempt to provoke the NSV, hoping that it leads to incidents after which they in return then can point their fingers. Not coincidentally this desperate act takes place now that the NSV is about to be admitted at the University of Ghent. 2. “No forum for hatred and violence” — You must go a long way before you find any relationship between a debate on inter-state cooperation and “hatred and violence”. It is even more absurd to assume that the NSV will try to proclaim anything that comes near to a hate message. In the explanation in which they try to justify these accusations, we largely notice the same outdated and distorted arguments coming back that previously have been formally refuted at PFC meetings [Political and Philosophic Convent, a board representing the various political student associations at the university]. Their re-use of these as a reason means nothing less than openly opposing the judgement of the rector and the university board, who offered an auditorium for the NSV. What makes this all even grotesque is the cowardly attack of eight violent leftists (with clear political motives) on two NSVers on Wednesday, September 24. One perpetrator was arrested and has to answer for it in court on October 16. 3. “Our university” — The University of Ghent has been for years now claimed by these violent leftist groups. A university does not hold a political stand, and should not hold one in a democratic country with democratic principles. No student has the right to speak in the name of the university or its students. On the contrary, when an association represents a specific view in a public institution, then that itself is a democratic right, and all objections can still be formulated by the competent bodies. The occupation of a building, however, is according to the NSV not a democratic means to raise such objections.
For the NSV this action is pure blackmail and a provocation. The NSV maintains its positions, relies for its admission on the good understanding of the social council and the College Board, and, let us make this clear, will not let itself be blackmailed. The NSV will be present this Tuesday, October 7, 2008 with the intention to use all possible approved means to go let the debate proceed.
We happily welcome the attendance of everyone at 8:00pm for the debate on cooperation between the Netherlands and Flanders. Filip Dewinter, Mark Demesmaeker, Jean-Marie Dedecker and Andries Postma will discuss the future of the Netherlands [Netherlands and Flanders]. Peter De Roover (VVB) will chair the debate. The NSV will make every effort necessary to let the debate proceed in a safe manner.
Appointment at 8:00pm in the Blandijnberg 2, auditorium E
We will not budge!
As you already know, the NSV and Filip Dewinter did not budge, but the debate was canceled anyway, because the university authorities were afraid of the possibility of violence.
Rector blows off NSV meeting, Dewinter battles with activists
The announced protest action at the auditorium “Blandijn” of the Ghent University has resulted in a confrontation between activists of left-wing student associations and Filip Dewinter, along with a score of supporters, who came to Ghent to speak at an NSV-meeting.
(photo: Dewinter, cooled down by a water cannon)
When an estimated 300 activists blocked access to the auditorium, the rector decided to blow off the meeting. Dewinter and his entourage disagreed with that decision and opened a charge to try to get in the auditorium anyway. All in vain, for Dewinter and his supporters no breakthrough was possible. In the tumult both sides exchanged blows; Dewinter was also eager to join in. Some NSVers managed to slip inside the auditorium through an automatic door and retreated into auditorium “D,” where they destroyed the furniture and let the fire alarm go off. The rest returned only when the police deployed a water cannon and forced the groups apart.
“I was one in the first row of the blockade of the students. I can only say that from the students’ side no violence was used. We only collected blows. Not from Dewinter himself, but from his private militia of 20 men around him. The PVs were meanwhile in file. The wide platform of students (including Jong-SPa [Socialists] and ABVV-young [Socialist Union for Students, links to Indymedia and Blockbuster. The ABVV was the subsidizer and employer of former Blokwatch founder Marc Spruyt], AS, COMAC [Chavez appeasers], etc.) have not used any form of violence.”
Jonas Van Vossole in DM
“It would be laughable if it were not such a creeping poison, how the extreme right ever again reverses the roles: they are the uber Democrats, the others the fascists (wasn’t Hitler a socialist?). They represent the reasonableness, the others the leftist street violence. They defend “the freedom of speech”, the others preach intolerance. That is the intellectual unworthy discourse that comes up, smelling from the rancid stinking underbellies of the party ‘who says what you think’…”
Yvan Lindekens in DM
A student federation, the LSV, disgrees with the Antifa attack and advocates freedom of debate, even if you don’t agree with a participant or the organizing student association:
Dries Holvoet [LSV, Liberal (not Socialist) Flemish Student Federation] — Argument for an open university
The Flemish Liberal Students Federation sees freedom of expression, association, and the press as essential in a democratic state. Freedom of speech is the only thing that distinguishes us from totalitarian regimes. A university that wishes to be democratic and pluralistic should make these principles a high priority. These rights, which cost the liberal movements blood, sweat and tears to achieve during the drafting of the constitution nearly 200 years ago, are in the first decade of the 21st century in the line of fire again, here at our alma mater.
The Ethical Code [at the university] binds the opportunities for student associations to freely organize activities. In this code the details of each activity are subjected to the goodwill of this or that rector. This code affects the foundations of the principles that were fought so hard for in 1830.
Where we as liberals bring contradictions to the fore in a debate, and organize them in that line, the ethical code will also regulate this medium and make it compulsory. With this action, the right of association has been flagrantly violated. It is solely up to the organizing association to decide the contents of an activity.
It is clear that the goodwill of the rector is central. Our current rector clearly places the freedom of speech at the core, and allows amongst others the students to debate with Dewinter. I would like once again to distance myself from Dewinter and his party. The LVSV is a humanist movement, where every individual stands central. However, the LVSV thinks that Dewinter and company should be invited. It is in this way that their discourse can be punctured. Or, according to Voltaire: I reject all your ideas, but I will fight for the right that they may be expressed. [emphasis added]
Finally, just a peculiar event in this context (and in EU Strasbourg):
The University of Ghent, with Université Robert Schuman and Open Society Justice, organizes an international conference on freedom of press on October 10 in Strasbourg
What is wrong with the protection of press freedom in Europe? Has the European Court of Human Rights put journalistic freedom into a lower gear?
Those are the central questions which experts will address at a conference on press freedom that the University of Ghent, the Université Robert Schuman and Open Society Justice Initiative, have organized on October 10 in Strasbourg.