Aaron Porter admits he did not hear anti-Semitic chants

Article published: Sunday, February 13th 2011

Aaron Porter has admitted that he did not hear anti-Semitic chanting at the protest against him prior to the January 29 “A Future that Works” march in Manchester, MULE can reveal. An investigation also discovered that an NUS official, believed to be an aide to Porter, was one of the two sources for the Daily Telegraph‘s allegations that the NUS President was “barracked” by racist chanting. The revelations will likely prove controversial, as protesters present maintain that no such chanting occurred.

Aaron Porter being led by Police into the Manchester Metropolitan University's Students' Union building.

After contacting the Telegraph, MULE learned that there are only two sources for their story – a PA photographer who claimed to have heard the chants directed at Porter, and the NUS itself. It was also revealed that neither reporters from the Telegraph nor the Daily Mail, the two newspapers that initially reported the allegations, were present at the protest.

When contacted, the Mail refused to give the name of the photographer who initially made the claims, and who was the sole source for their article, the final version of which was titled: “Student leader faces barrage of anti-Jewish abuse at rally as protesters accuse him of being a Tory.”

When MULE asked to speak to the NUS official who heard the chants, who is believed to be an aide to Porter, an NUS Press Officer said: “We cannot allow you to speak to the person directly. As there is an ongoing police investigation into the allegations we feel it is not appropriate to discuss it in the press.”

Porter himself also admitted to MULE that he had not himself heard any racial abuse, and that the NUS confirmed the story when journalists contacted them for comment. In a statement through the NUS Press Office he said:

“I was not certain what was said by those shouting abuse at me, however I was informed by others present that amongst other things anti-Semitic comments were made.

“This was independently reported by journalists present and was confirmed to another journalist who enquired. I have not made a specific complaint to the police as I did not clearly hear the contents of the chants myself.”

This may prove controversial for Porter, who in the aftermath of the protest made several statements to the media that gave the impression he had heard the abuse himself.

In an email to NUS members printed in a Financial Times article he said: “Just before the march started, I was surrounded by a particularly vicious minority of protesters more intent on shouting threatening and racist abuse at me rather than focusing on the issues.” On January 30 he sent a tweet that read: “Will not back down to intimidation, and certainly not to racial abuse”, and in a Times article on January 31st he wrote of the protest: “However, before I was able to speak to the rally of thousands, a small group of people started to chant abuse to try to intimidate me, and there were audible anti-Semitic comments.”

The fact that NUS officials were the second source means that their account of the day, along with the PA photographer’s, differs from video evidence. Of the two videos to emerge since the protest, one shows the moments before Porter was escorted into the Manchester Metropolitan Students’ Union. Another substantially longer one, which is largely uncut, shows most of the protest. At no point are anti-Semitic chants clearly audible, nor chants of “no to racism,” reported in the Telegraph article but not in the Mail.

Although no eyewitnesses have come forward to corroborate the Mail or Telegraph‘s claims, several have come forward to say that they heard no racist abuse. Sacha Ismail told MULE that he was at the front of the crowd initially, although he moved further back later on:

“There were certainly no anti-Semitic chanting going on. What was being chanted was ‘shame on you, you’re a fucking Tory too’, by dozens of people. In terms of abuse the whole tenor of the thing was hostile, but there was no threat of him being harmed.”

He also expressed doubt that the abuse could have come from a small group:

“It is conceivable but it seems unlikely because our people were right at the front the whole time and would have heard it. Our organisation [Alliance for Worker's Liberty] take a robust position condemning anti-Semitism which unfortunately is at times present in some other elements of the far left.”

Chris Marks, also a member of Alliance for Worker’s Liberty and Hull Students Against Fees and Cuts, confirmed Ismail’s account. When asked if there was any anti-Semitic chants he said:

“Absolutely and categorically not. I was at the front of the group which instigated the protest. If there had been anti-Semitic chants we would have heard and challenged it. Anything shouted was jovial.”

Marks told MULE that he was never approached or spoken to by any journalists. He also added that there was a BBC reporter outside Manchester Metropolitan Students’ Union where Mr Porter was taken. The BBC news reports did not allege hearing anti-Semitic chants.

Josie Hooker, a student at the University of Manchester, told MULE that she was about 15 metres away from Porter for the majority of the march. She also claimed not to have heard anti-Semitic chants or the chants of “no to racism” .

“At no point did I hear anti-Semitic abuse and at no point did I hear anyone shout ‘no to racism,’” she said.

“Due to my position on the march, I believe that if a 20 strong group of people were shouting ‘no to racism’ in response to anti-Semitic or racist abuse myself or one of the 15-20 odd friends and acquaintances present in various positions among the protesters would have heard it.”

She also suggested that the photographer who heard the chant “Tory Jew scum” simply misheard “you’re a fucking Tory too,” which was chanted throughout the protest.

Similarly, Sophia Coles-Riley told MULE: “I was within a few metres of Aaron Porter from the moment a group of students tried to challenge him on his political record, to the time he was barricaded inside Man Met Union by the police. None of the group’s chants were anti-Semitic.”

The eyewitnesses also underlined the political nature of the protest. Peter Campbell, a medical student from Newcastle, also claimed to have heard no racial abuse. Referring to the “Aaron Porter we know you, you’re a fucking Tory too” chant, he said: “It is a chant of disgust at a man that has repeatedly set back the student movement. It is certainly not pleasant, it’s not meant to be. However, it is not anti-Semitic.”

Said Hooker: “The majority [of protesters] were enthused to have the chance to make their frustration at Porter’s lack of support felt and at the sizable group of people who obviously shared their frustration.

“I was disappointed to see how the important political message of this event has been overshadowed by the seemingly shaky allegations of anti-Semitic abuse.”

Tom Fox and Michael Pooler

More: Cuts, Education, Features

Comments

  1. Hi,
    Good to see that the truth will always out.
    I was at the head of the group that followed Mr Porter untill he entered the Students Union. I was photographing him at the head of the crowd, and, as I stated to Indymedia at the time, there was NEVER any Racist abuse in any way.

    Comment by Stillshooter on February 14, 2011 at 11:29 am
  2. The truth might out, but only to a minority of those who heard the original allegations.

    Comment by Bob Bobsworth on February 14, 2011 at 2:40 pm
  3. “…neither reporters from the newspapers that initially reported the allegations were present at the protest” – sums up the state of much ‘journalism’ nowadays. And yet these baseless rumours still make the front pages. Once a defamatory statement is made on such from wide-reaching platform against a group or individual, its harm is very difficult to undo – even if it doesn’t contain a grain of truth.

    Comment by Withingtonian on February 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm
  4. [...] that he would “not bow to racist abuse.” Another claim that he would later row back on, recently claiming that he had never said he’d heard anti-Semitic chants (a flat out lie.) The greatest problem with this incident wasn’t the appalling smear that he [...]

    Pingback by Haters Gonna Hate « Socialist Cephalopod on February 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm
  5. [...] chasings. Aaron, incidentally, now admits that contrary to the impression he might have gave, he heard no anti-semitic abuse – if this is the case he should issue a retraction pending further investigation and those [...]

    Pingback by Hundal, Toynbee, Porter and the NUS’ Market Reason – Alex Andrews on February 16, 2011 at 12:30 am
  6. [...] From: http://manchestermule.com/article/nus-official-was-source-for-anti-semitic-allegations [...]

    Pingback by Aaron Porter admits he did not hear anti-Semitic chants « Really Open University on February 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm
  7. [...] it to the press that Porter had been the victim of “anti semitic abuse”. Since then Porter has admitted he didn’t hear any racist chanting, so as well as being a sneaky careerist he was also happy to let people think he was the victim of [...]

    Pingback by Scottish Socialist Youth » Aaron Porter gone, Bill Aitken resigns, Gaddafi on his way out… on February 21, 2011 at 7:34 pm
  8. [...] rally were shouting anti-Semitic chants at Porter, who is not Jewish. It was later revealed that the source for these rumours was an NUS official. Even before this, there was no verifiable evidence of any anti-Semitic chants (The Daily Mail and [...]

    Pingback by The National Union of Students and the downfall of Aaron Porter – Abby's Blog on February 22, 2011 at 12:02 am
  9. ‘Aaron porter, you’re a Jew, I wanna hit you with my shoe!’

    met with a chorus of laughter

    0.18-0.22

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFiQ-i7UosM

    That and accounts by some there.

    Comment by conchovor on February 23, 2011 at 5:42 pm
  10. In which case – why did no newspapers report that chant, rather than “Tory Jew Scum” or “Fucking Tory Jew”?

    Why did Aaron Porter (who is clearly directly in front of the person you claim is saying Jew) not hear it?

    Why did none of the people we spoke to, several of whom are at the front near Porter, claim to have heard anyone say “Aaron Porter you’re a Jew, I wanna hit you with my shoe”?

    Why did the Telegraph report a counter-chant of “no to racism”, which clearly does not happen in that video – or this video, timestamped to a few seconds before the shoe comment (which occurs at 5:29)?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OP_MYH6I0rk#t=5m24s.

    All of this leaves out the fact that it’s impossible to hear what the person rhymed “shoe” with in either video.

    Comment by tom on February 23, 2011 at 6:03 pm
  11. [...] such petty reasons as the fact they didn’t vote for him, or that he told a few harmless tiny white lies. Now it looks like Aaron might not be president much longer, and may even have to go to [...]

    Pingback by Eusafishes Appeal – A Very Special Message | eusafishes on March 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm
  12. [...] the report was based completely on a mishearing, a point made by Sacha Ismail of the AWL and reported carefully in the Manchester Mule and at the blog The Great Unrest. Again, a warning against [...]

    Pingback by Ziocentrism and antisemitic incidents in Britain | contested terrain on October 11, 2011 at 8:55 am

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