Student and queer activists were threatened with arrest this afternoon after security at Macquarie University claimed that the t-shirts they were wearing and selling, emblazoned with the words ‘Fuck Tony Abbott’, were creating an “unsafe” environment on university grounds.
Activists campaigning for marriage equality laws had set up a stall earlier in the day to sell the shirts, which some student and socialist groups quickly produced soon after last weekend’s election saw Abbott claim the Prime Ministership for the Coalition.
According to the university’s Campus Engagement Development Officer, Lauren Hargreaves, security demanded the stall be closed and students wearing the t-shirts disperse as they were “offensive” and other students had complained that it “made them feel unsafe”. Students were then reportedly threatened that police would arrest them if they did not leave.
Jordan Humphreys, a student activist at Macquarie University involved in the incident, said the actions of security were a complete disregard for civil rights.
“This is clearly a case of freedom of speech. Your rights cannot be violated simply because other people find your point of view offensive,” Humphreys said.
“I think Tony Abbott’s racist, sexist and homophobic views are what is really offensive in our society. It was Tony Abbott who said that in regards to homosexuality ‘I feel a bit threatened’. Already the Liberal government has announced cuts to funding for Aboriginal legal aid.”
Another student who was present, Josh Lee, said the actions of security and university officials will only further encourage their activism and continuing fight for equality.
“MQ Uni security guards physically shut down our stall today because we were wearing ‘Fuck Tony Abbott t-shirts. Brought to you by the same ‘democracy’ which gave us Abbott and Palmer in the first place,” Lee wrote on Facebook.
“You know what that means: wear more Fuck Abbott t-shirts all the time!”
National Union of Students Queer Officer Cat Rose said universities should be places where people are free to be critical of the government and express dissent with injustice and inequality.
“This also isn’t the first time activists have had problems at the campus,” Rose said. “In the lead up to the National Day of Action against the cuts to higher education funding, Security at Macquarie University threatened to call the police on students handing out leaflets about the issue.”
Over 1,500 people have already ‘liked’ a corresponding Facebook page containing the same phrase which security at the university found offensive.
Macquarie University refused to provide comment.
INFO: The t-shirts can be viewed and purchased from here.