Editor’s comment: Why we didn’t report mooted far-right picket

The Islington Assembly Hall was packed for People's Question Time. Picture: LUCAS CUMISKEY

The Islington Assembly Hall was packed for People's Question Time. Picture: LUCAS CUMISKEY - Credit: Archant

It was rumoured that far-right demonstrators would picket People’s Question Time at the Assembly Hall last week.

I’m proud to say Islington couldn’t have cared less and in the end the “protest” consisted of a single drunk man sat on the steps, while the hall inside was packed.

Access to democracy is something I’m forever bleating on about in this column, and it’s good that people had a chance to grill the mayor despite the threats.

Sadiq Khan’s answers were frustratingly vague, either because issues were in the hands of other authorities (like Holloway Prison, despite calls last year for him to bid for the site) or because he was unwilling to divulge new information or stray from official lines (like the police station and cuts to buses – both bucks that stop with his office, though no one should write about them without pointing out the shrinking of local authority funding).

But whether or not Mr Khan acquitted himself well, I’m glad people were there to hear him speak. It’s no coincidence that the far-right would target a democratic event, because its ideologies rely on ignorance.

Sadly you don’t have to look too far to see that hate and ignorance are still alive and well in our borough.

We cover stats like these not to make people afraid but because we believe the first step towards solving a problem is being honest and accurate about what it actually is. So why didn’t we report the plan to disrupt people’s question time?

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There is a line between not whitewashing hate crime and not giving scumbags the oxygen of publicity. The unnerving statistics on remind us hate isn’t “free speech” by any meaningful definition – it is taking away the rights of other people. I believe reporting threats like these, even critically, is handing a megaphone to people who should be ignored.