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Student protest at conservative conference sees coffee thrown, arrest made

Protesters arrived shortly after Nigel Farage gave a speech to attendees

A photo of protesters on the street.

Student protesters organised a snap rally today against the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), resulting in clashes between the two groups and police intervention. 

CPAC was  jointly organised by Australian group Liberty Works and the American Conservative Union. Its speaking list includes former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, leader of the Brexit Party Nigel Farage, as well as a host of other inflammatory right-wing commentators and politicians from Australia, the US, and the UK. The event attracted around 400 attendees on each of its two main days on Friday and Saturday.

A few hours after Farage gave his speech, approximately 30 protesters gathered on the street outside Rydges World Square, where the event is being hosted, chanting a raft of anti-conservative slogans.

A heavy police presence of close to 20 officers prevented the protest from reaching the conference. However, numerous attendees of the conference, some dressed in MAGA hats, attempted to move into the crowd of protesters. One attendee had a coffee thrown on them, leading to the thrower of the coffee being handcuffed and arrested by police.

Hersha Kadkol, principal organiser of the protest and Ethnocultural Officer of the National Union of Students, gave a statement to Honi.

“The worrying rise of the far right all around the world must be resisted. Every time they get organised, we must protest and stand in solidarity with the victims of their attacks,” she said.

Official organisers of CPAC declined Honi’s request for comment.

The conference has not been short of controversial moments. Yesterday, the crowd launched into chants of “send her back” when Kristina Keneally became a topic of discussion. Keneally lobbied to have speaker Raheem Kassam barred from entering the country, citing misogynistic comments he had made in the past.

Tony Abbott also attracted attention by using his time of the stage yesterday to decry the recently passed NSW abortion bill as “death on demand” and a “fundamentally inhuman position”.

Organisers have divulged their intention to turn CPAC, which currently attracts crowds of 10,000 in the US, into a permanent fixture of the Australian political calendar in the future.