Friends and opponents alike have expressed their grief after the death of Wilson Gavin, the leader of a rightwing student club at the University of Queensland, who died one day after leading a protest at a drag queen storytime event in a Brisbane library.
Gavin, the president of the university’s Liberal National Club, is believed to have taken his own life in the early hours of Monday morning after videos of the protest went viral online at the weekend.
In the videos Gavin and a number of other protesters are seen yelling “Drag queens are not for kids” at two performers at the Brisbane Square library.
The club’s Facebook page was inundated with comments in opposition to the protesters’ actions, and the group was condemned by other students and federal MPs including the Brisbane Liberal National party MP Trevor Evans and the LNP councillor Vicki Howard.
Gavin’s death was confirmed on Monday afternoon.
His friend Drew Pavlou, also a UQ senator, said on Twitter Wilson was “at his core a very decent and kind person that cared for others”.
“He had his struggles and made mistakes, and it is a tragedy for us all that he ultimately succumbed to his suffering and pain.”
Brisbane’s LNP lord mayor, Adrian Schrinner, said he was deeply saddened by the news, and the events of the previous two days had been “truly tragic”.
“Let’s all do our best to ensure something positive comes from this tragedy.”
Gavin was a staunch conservative and was interviewed in 2017 about his opposition to same-sex marriage, despite being gay himself.
Rainbow Families Queensland, which organised the library event, said LGBTQ+ people were at high risk of suicide, which is why it promoted programs such as Safe Schools and drag storytime.
The University of Queensland said it was providing support for staff and students.
“Mutual respect and diversity are core values of the university, and we hope that everyone shows consideration for those affected during the difficult days ahead,” a spokeswoman said.
The Liberal National Club was disendorsed by the LNP in December, and on Monday night the UQ Liberal National Club Facebook page was deleted.
Some politicians, including the state LNP MP Mark Robinson and the federal LNP MP George Christensen, linked Gavin’s death to the reaction on social media.
“Twitter is broken,” Christensen said in a tweet before deactivating his Twitter account. “It’s for ad hominem attacks & pile-ons, not real discourse. And it’s aided and abetted by the media.”
• In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. In the UK and Irish Republic, contact Samaritans on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org