Protest in The Oxford Union Chamber: What Happened?

Lucas Haskins reports on the protests inside the chamber of The Oxford Union during Kathleen Stock's talk.


Ten minutes into Kathleen Stock’s address at The Oxford Union this afternoon, 30th May, shouts rang out in multiple parts of the chamber: “No more dead trans kids.”

Two protestors unfurled transgender pride flags before walking freely out of the chamber to an overwhelming chorus of boos. A third protester threw out leaflets; on one side “NO MORE DEAD TRANS KIDS”, and on the other a longer statement which opened – “Kathleen Stock is not welcome here…we will resist hatred, and we will fight for trans rights.”

An attendee called out in response, “free speech is human rights” and was greeted by raucous cheers.

During the initial uproar, a fourth and final protester, wearing a shirt with the same slogan, “no more dead trans kids”, sat down at the base of the dais, below Stock and Union President Matthew Dick. It became rapidly clear that via glue or similar, this protester had attached themself to the floor of the chamber. Security paused the event.

As this realisation rippled across the chamber, the majority of the crowd settled into an uneasy quiet. Union officials and security guards conferred. Security ordered phones away and sought to bar filming; reporters from The Oxford Student were told to delete videos posted to the paper’s Instagram.

Kathleen Stock was asked to continue, and the crowd applauded the request. She said that though she wanted to, the talk would remain in limbo until the situation was resolved.

Others in the room were angry. A middle-aged woman towards the back of the room began to shout “Get it out! Get it out!” And later, get “the bitch” out. The protester sat there, on the floor, staring straight ahead. In the long stretches of almost-silence, the chants (“trans rights now”), music, and noises from the crowds gathered on St Michael’s Street hung in the chamber.

After ten minutes, police entered to a burst of applause, but were unable to remove the protester. Eight minutes later, more officers returned – six ultimately surrounded the dais – carrying papers, a camera, and, in a red container, what seems to have been solvent for glue.

For seven minutes, the backs of the officers, and the table in the chamber’s centre obstructed the view from the press bench. At 17:45, however, the protester was stood up, and escorted out. There were cheers and then boos.

Dick apologised for the delay and the event continued. He later affirmed the Union’s “unwavering” commitment to hosting the speaker. Stock herself said later – “I don’t mind that protest. It wasn’t traumatic for me”.