By Freddie Gough
Earlier this evening, MP for North East Somerset, Jacob Rees-Mogg gave a talk at UWE that resulted in an altercation between protesters and audience members. The event was organized by UWE Politics and International Relations Society (PAIRS) and managed to fill a 300-seat lecture hall on Frenchay Campus.
At around 18:30, shortly after Mr Rees-Mogg had started speaking, a group of approximately 8 protesters entered through the rear door and began chanting and holding up signs (below). Members of the group wore all black and many concealed their faces with balaclavas and sunglasses. According to reports from individuals in attendance, some of the protesters were former UWE students, while another appeared to be middle aged and was presumed to be unaffiliated with the university. None had purchased tickets to the event.
With the lecture halted due to their shouting, Mr Rees-Mogg walked up the stairwell to face the protesters and was shortly followed by several of the audience members. After much heckling and repeated chants of “out” from the audience, the two groups began pushing and shoving. Though it was not clear exactly what went on, some alleged that punches had been thrown. Mr Rees-Mogg was caught in the middle of the scuffle, however he was not directly assaulted and later confirmed that he was unhurt.
Almost 10 minutes after the protesters had first entered, the UWE security team arrived to diffuse the situation and remove them from the premises. The talk continued without interruption from then on, with both security and the police remaining outside the room until the end.
Statements were subsequently given to the police by various audience members, in which several of the protesters were identified. Both the University and the Students’ Union released statements of their own regarding the event. No more incidents were reported and no arrests have yet been made.