Demonstrators clashed on Monday as far-right UKIP MEP candidate Carl Benjamin and former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos came to lead a rally at Exeter Quay.
Addressing crowds of supporters and protestors, the two arrived as part of Benjamin’s electoral tour of the South-West. As has been the case across their campaign, the controversial figures challenged members of the public to debates in front of the crowd.
Speaking to Exeposé, one protestor and Exeter resident who debated Benjamin lamented that “by protesting you’re giving him publicity”. They added that “[some] things are so objectionable you just have to object.”
“[some] things are so objectionable you just have to object”
Stand Up To Racism demonstrators protested the alleged white nationalist leanings of the pair, as well as Benjamin’s past comments stating that he “wouldn’t even rape” Labour MP Jess Phillips. Supporters flashed ‘OK’ symbols, often associated with white nationalist movements – one protestor noted the movement’s “irony proto-fascism.” Protests condemned Benjamin and Yiannopoulos’s previous controversial comments, as well as noting the alleged similarity of growing far-right speech to the rise of Nazism in Germany.
Milkshakes were likewise the object of the hour, as noted in the above protest chant. This follows the soaking of UKIP Advisor Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson) with a milkshake on 3 May. In this manner, milkshakes were also thrown over Benjamin at rallies in Totnes and Truro.
A protestor followed suit at Exeter Quay, throwing chocolate milk at Yiannopoulos. In a tweet, the organisers described the individual as a Liberal Democrat that was arrested soon after. The Exeter University Liberal Democrats Society have since stated on Facebook that they “totally condemn the use of force or violence at any political event.”
“For Britain” council candidate Frankie Rufolo was likewise involved in an altercation amongst the protestors, eventually settled by the police. In a comment to Exeposé, he labelled the Stand Up To Racism protestors as “disingenuous liars” and “left-wing racists,” stating that “a lot of them don’t know what they’re talking about”.
Few attendees openly demonstrated pro- or anti-EU views
Benjamin and Yiannopoulos have been involved in controversy before. Benjamin was condemned for the aforementioned comments towards Phillips. He later joked that he would rape the MP “with enough pressure”. Likewise, Yiannopoulos’ recent Facebook ban had been designed for “individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence or hate”. Yiannopoulos was also banned from Twitter in 2016 for his harassment of actress Leslie Jones.
The focus of the rally shifted from UKIP’s stated goals for the upcoming EU elections – a manifesto primarily centred around ensuring a no-deal Brexit – and towards Benjamin and Yiannopoulos’s personal views. One student at the protest, who declined to be identified, noted that UKIP “has alienated its core base of leave voters, just leaving it with a hard base of cranks and teens that want to be edgy online.” Few attendees openly demonstrated pro- or anti-EU views; a UKIP-supporter asked for comment on Benjamin noted a concern for “identity politics,” while hoping that “UKIP can succeed and guarantee the future of our culture.”
Debating with a Benjamin-supporting student, Yiannopoulos joked about supposed WWII regiments of middle-eastern “Waffen-SS Muslims” who “didn’t care about politics; they just wanted to kill Jews!” Benjamin appeared confused, though laughed at the statement. Later speaking to Exeposé on the importance of the open debate, the student noted that “Carl’s allowing people to get on the mic … he’s allowed to go up and give his opinion.” The student subsequently decried the “insult after insult” received from protesters.
Benjamin subsequently continued his tour of the South-West, leading up to the EU elections on May 23rd.