Written by Student Rights on 20 February 2013 at 12pm

The Guardian: Anti-fascist protesters greet speech by Marine Le Pen at Cambridge

19th February 2013

Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right Front National party, was greeted by an anti-fascist protest as she addressed a Cambridge University debating group on Tuesday.

The daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who took over the party leadership from her father in 2011, spoke to students at the Cambridge Union Society in the afternoon.

Her appearance led the group Unite Against Fascism to organise a demonstration of about 200 people outside the venue. Officers from Cambridgeshire police attended.

Le Pen, 44, who has been an MEP since 2004, spoke about the future of the EU and French politics. A spokesman for the Union Society defended the decision to invite her to speak.

"We welcome the opportunity to discuss, debate, and challenge an individual who has had an unquestionable impact on French and European politics," he said. "Whether you agree with her politics or not, this event represents one of the very few opportunities a British audience has had to directly engage with Mrs Le Pen, who finished third in the last French presidential election, behind Hollande and Sarkozy, and who currently sits in the European parliament as a democratically elected representative."

Student Rights, a group supporting equality, democracy and freedom from extremism on university campuses, called for Cambridge University to investigate the decision to invite Le Pen to speak.

In a statement, it added: "Universities do have a duty to uphold freedom of speech, but they are no place for the promotion of fascist views, and university authorities have a duty of care to their students to protect them from those who would promote hatred."

Previous controversial speakers at the Union Society have included Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Julian Assange.