Globe columnist’s event derailed by protest
Check out previously unreleased video from Friday’s event:
“Our goal was to not let her speak, we accomplished that,” said Tallula Marigold, media representative for the small group of individuals who usurped the stage on Nov. 12 at the University of Waterloo’s (UW) Hagey Hall and prevented Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford from speaking.
Blatchford was promoting her new book Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us, which examines the Caledonia crisis and critiques the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) for the breakdown of rule of law.
Among the group of individuals protesting the event and criticizing Blatchford was Laurier graduate Dan Kellar, who said Blatchford’s book is “very dishonest,” going so far as to call it “hack journalism because she’s not accepting the role of history in the current situation.”
Kellar mentioned that the group was formed of individuals who were affiliated with various groups including anti-racist action and the Concerned Settlers of the Grand River Territory. Some of the same individuals also organized a teach-in before the event began, which included students, faculty and community members in a discussion about Blatchford, her ideas and book, as well as other common themes.
Some individuals expressed that the columnist should not be given the privilege of speaking in the university’s academic forum.
“I don’t think there’s a space for her with her hack journalism and her driving of misunderstanding and hatred,” said Kellar. “There’s no space for her to sit in an academic setting and speak.”
Blatchford disagreed and although she wanted to go on stage, UW decided to cancel the event instead because of “concern for general public safety,” according to Michael Strickland, the school’s assistant director: media relations.
“There are critics and that is absolutely fine and I will stay here until the cows come home to answer your questions or hear your heckling, whatever it may be,” Blatchford said later.
“But give me my chance to speak and then I’ll give you yours.”
Regarding the misinterpretation of her book, Blatchford explained that in her work’s forward she explains her approach — being a reporter who covers the criminal court for a living and being interested in the rule of law, she set out
“to describe what happened in Caledonia from the perspective of the rule of law and the failure of the state and the failure of the OPP.”
Various audience members denounced the tactics of the protesters: both those that had come simply to see Blatchford speak and others who had come to ask her tough questions about her book.
Pauline Campbell, audience member and Waterloo resident, said the protesters used the wrong forum to voice their opinions.
“If they had rented their own room,” she suggested that the situation would have been different. “But that wasn’t the night I came out here to see and I mean it’s a load of garbage, calling people Nazis. It was very unpleasant.”
Former Laurier student Jacob Pries said he was not opposed to Blatchford speaking, but said he had attended the event to “call her out” on what he believes to be falsehoods in her book’s arguments.
Pries also had some suggestions for how those opposed to Blatchford’s
views could promote dialogue.
“What’s more appropriate in the situation is to engage with the arguments because then you can actually deal with the arguments and not let them fester and become worse,” Pries said.
“That’s what we’re going to see as a result of this.”
The protest lasted for well over an hour, with audience members and protesters yelling and cursing back and fourth.
“Unfortunately there is a small minority that felt that they would win if they’d just sit on the stage and yell ‘racist, racist, racist’,” said Strickland.
“We made a determination that since [Blatchford] wasn’t going to get a word in, in any sort of respectful fashion, there would be no point in bringing her out and having her subjected to that.”
As a result, the event will be rescheduled for a later date and security will likely be heightened.
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