An event titled “Our Responsibility at this time” by Roger Hallam, Co-Founder of Extinction Rebellion, was cancelled by Climate Reality Warwick following a backlash from Warwick Labour and Jewish Society over past allegations of anti-Semitism remarks made by Hallam.
Following the announcement of the event, Warwick Labour Society published a social media statement, which read: “We are dissapointed and shocked to learn of the invitation of Roger Hallam, founder of XR, to speak on campus by Climate Reality Warwick, given his comments that minimised the Holocaust and his suggestion that Germany should ‘move on’ from its past.
“Jewish and Romani people were persecuted by the Nazis in their millions, and that legacy of trauma still exists in their communities today. It is deeply offensive to downplay the Holocaust as ‘just another fuckery in human history’.
The event, organised for Tuesday 25 February, came in the midst of Warwick’s Holocaust Memorial Week.
In response to the backlash from both Warwick Labour Society and Warwick Jewish Society, Climate Reality published a statement: “We have made the decision as a society to cancel the talk. When we were approached about the guest speaker, we were not aware who he was until after confirming the event, and of course, this is a mistake on our part for not checking.”
They added: “As a society, we strongly condemn some of Roger’’s statements in the past, especially regarding the Holocaust, and we don’t feel that he represents us as a society. We apologise for any potential harm caused.”
When contacted by The Boar News, Julia Brahy, Articles Officer for Climate Reality said: “As a Jewish member of the Climate Reality Warwick exec, I personally felt torn in terms of Hallam’s appearance on campus. On one hand, I was excited to have a prestigious climate activist as a speaker, as I believe Warwick has much to learn in terms of the realm of environmental activism.”
She added: “However, I believe that my Jewish identity has always brought an intersectional approach to the way I view both social justice and climate justice. For this reason, I believe that Hallam’s antisemitic remarks concerning the Holocaust to be an injustice to the activist work he has pursued, and I am proud that the Climate Reality exec made the decision to cancel the event.”
Regarding the Climate Reality event that was scheduled recently, the organisers had not submitted a Risk Assessment for their external speaker, as required by the SU and University’s regulations
In response to the cancellation of the event, a spokesperson for the Warwick Jsoc said: “Warwick Jsoc supports Climate Reality’s decision to cancel their event with Roger Hallam. We appreciate their acknowledgement of our concerns and the actions they have taken in response. However, it was disappointing to discover that the SU had allowed this speaker to attend in the first place.”
When contacted by The Boar, the University of Warwick’s Students’ Union said: “Regarding the Climate Reality event that was scheduled recently, the organisers had not submitted a Risk Assessment for their external speaker, as required by the SU and University’s regulations. They were therefore not allowed to have the speaker attend their event.”
Climate Reality Warwick’s cancellation of their speaker event comes amid issues concerning free speech regulation at UK universities.
The government has previously said that they would fine universities for ‘no-platforming’ speakers, which raises questions over whether there will be more regulation among student societies on which speakers can come to campus.
The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech Bill) proposed by the government in 2021 could mean that visiting speakers or academics could seek compensation if they suffer loss from a breach of a university’s free speech obligations.
When asked whether they agreed that the cancellation of Roger Hallam’s speaker event was an incident of ‘de-platforming’, a member of Climate Reality said: “In this case, I don’t think the Roger Hallam event was de-platformed. His past comments were not subjective, it was objectively clear that the comments were insensitive, and that shouldn’t be up for debate.”