Aaron Porter, President of the National Union of Students (NUS), was surrounded and heckled by Glasgow University students on a recent visit to a Labour Party conference.
Porter, who is a Labour Party member, was approached by a number of students critical of his refusal to condemn police kettling tactics when he temporarily left the main conference venue. He was then encircled and prevented from moving by a ring of people holding hands around him.
Porter eventually fled the scene before later returning to the conference to give a speech to other Labor Party members. He was not physically touched during the incident.
The conference, titled the ‘National Labour Youth and Student Conference 2011’, was hosted by the Glasgow University Labour Club for members of Scottish Young Labour, and attended by a number of Labour politicians including Ray Collins, General Secretary of the Labour Party, and Jim Murphy MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence.
Onlookers claimed that upon returning to the event he looked ‘visibly shaken’, although managed to deliver his speech as planned.
Joseph McFadden, chair of the Glasgow University Labour Club, was critical of those who came to the event to heckle.
He said: “The treatment of Aaron Porter was reprehensible, only amplified by the hypocrisy of the perpetrators. Their pathetic justifications showed they have no respect for fellow human beings, as they treated Aaron in a way that I hope most people would never consider acting towards another person.
“Initially, to those at the Conference, it had appeared that people were simply protesting which we accepted was their democratic right as much as everyone at the conference had a democratic right to attend it without interference. When Aaron went out of the Theatre we were using for the main Conference events, we all thought that he was going to discuss the issues with the protesters in a proper manner; it was not until some time after the events that we found out they had actually acted as they did.”
He went on to state his belief that the NUS President handled the harassment well, and that the actions did not disturb the event.
He said: “All credit to Aaron he never looked for sympathy after his ordeal and defied the harassment in the best way possible by returning to the Conference and not being scared off by what happened. It was in a large part due to his actions that the rest of the Conference was able to proceed as well as it did and was not derailed by the thuggish behaviour of a few senseless individuals.”
Tommy Gore, Students’ Representative Council President, was not supportive of the demonstration.
He said: “Whilst the SRC are no supporters of Aaron Porter (how can he truly represent British students when more people voted for me than voted for him?), we don’t believe that physical intimidation of an individual is any way to show that opposition.
“Furthermore, the effect it had in polarising opinions on campus I thought was unhelpful in the run up to events on Wednesday, although it was obviously to everybody’s great credit who took part in the protest to show that they don’t need to resort to violence in order to get their message across to the University the opposition to the cuts.”
It was recently announced that Porter, who has faced increasingly personal attacks from students, will not be seeking re-election.