Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shut Down

As just about everyone knows by now, the Ann Coulter event was shut down by a bunch of U of O students.

I arrived at the university around 5:30. At that time there was only about a dozen people waiting in the vestibule and the only people that I noticed hanging around outside looked a lot like the CBC. The line started out fairly rag-tag but gradually the place filled up and by the time the doors were supposed to open the vestibule was jammed full and the line extended out the door and around the corner.

No one was doing any yelling or protesting before the event that I noticed. The only controversy seemed to be whether people who hadn't pre-registered would be allowed in. (Answer, probably not. The auditorium was not very large. I estimate something over 300 seats) My brother was in the vestibule until around 7:15 and he reports that all was fairly orderly at that point.

The whole thing started very late. Not sure what the issue was there. It was supposed to start at 7 but the doors only opened around then and due to checking everyone's ID and registration it was not filling up very fast. I managed to get into the auditorium fairly early on. The atmosphere in there seemed to be both excited and rather tense.

Then the fire alarm went off. Do you know how loud industrial fire alarms are? Do you know what they sound like when they go on for about ten minutes?!

People in the auditorium seemed to be very confused about what was going on. It was impossible to tell what was happening outside. The rumors that I collected (true or not I'm not entirely sure) indicated that there were protesters outside yelling "No hate speech on campus", they had barricaded a door, they were pounding on the auditorium door. Deborah Gyapong who got stuck outside has more to say about what happened there. You need to read her account for a complete picture of the night.

My notes at the time read "We're trapped in here. No bathroom... This might get REALLY interesting."

At about 8:09, over an hour after the lecture was supposed to begin Ezra Levant finally got up to speak. He said that there were 2000 protesters outside and that it would not be physically safe for Ann Coulter to appear. Levant did however give a little mini-speech which included some stinging words about Francois Houle.

He noted that at Western Ontario the President had said that regardless of whether he agreed with Ann Coulter or not he welcomed the diversity of opinion and that although there were many students who disagreed with Coulter and some heckling it was under control and they were able to have a good dialogue. Here Houle basically gave the students the green light to make trouble for Ann Coulter and the whole thing had to be shut down. A fish rots from the head down. He also noted that this event will expose the rot in our Canadian culture when it comes to free speech.

The head of the International Free Press Society also spoke about how they took Kurt Westergaard to Yale and Princeton and never had to fear for his life there.

These speeches were regularly punctuated with cheers, clapping, booing, and cries of "We want Ann" at the appropriate moments. A smaller number started to chant telling us to go home. They chanted so loudly that the man trying to tell us how to leave the building safely couldn't make himself heard.

We were able to file out a side door past lots of policemen into an alleyway beside the building. By the time we exited, probably close to 8:30 there were only about a few hundred protesters and the people from the audotorium were able to slip away or join in some counter-chants according to inclination (I'm sure I heard something that sounded a lot like "No more Commies on our campus"). I was able to catch a glimpse of some nice "This is a Safe Space" and "Love" posters. The fact that we had just been police escorted out of the building because the protesters were such a danger seemed lost on them.

Relistening to my audio recording of the demonstrators it sounds like "Freespeechers go home." I know there were other slogans as well.

Well this freespeecher went home, and decided to call up the International Free Press Society tomorrow and offer my services in any way possible. I believed in free speech before, in fact it was Ezra Levant's campaign that first really got me interested in politics. But now, it's personal.

You know there are appropriate ways to deal with speakers you don't like. Vote with your feet, either don't go or walk out if it gets outrageous. Protest peacefully. Use the Q&A session to ask hard questions. Write articles or invite speakers of your own to give a counter perspective. When the Parliamentary Committee was having hearings about Section 13 I went to hear Levant/Steyn and Jennifer Lynch/Bernie Faber/Richard Moon.

Just for the record, I don't agree with everything Ann Coulter says. I don't agree that Muslims should be banned from flying (If she actually meant that seriously) and I quite agree that to say that is offensive. However, she does have a lot to say that is at least worth thinking about.

And after all she is a satirical, polemical speaker. If you want to hear Floppsy the Bunny Rabbit telling us to love the world don't go to an Ann Coulter speech. You go to an Ann Coulter event to hear things said in an over the top, satirical, funny, outrageous, but interesting way. You may or may not agree, but that's fine.

I wanted to hear what she had to say. Hundreds of people wanted to hear what she had to say. They were denied that opportunity by people who thought that they had the right to shout "freespeechers go home" and force us through threat of violence to do so.

Francois Houle is looking for hate speech. I suggest he look at his own desk. Ann Coulter was not going to say anything that would actually incite people to violence. Mr. Houle came within half an inch of doing so. If it wasn't for the presence of nine police squad cars who knows what might have happened. He gave his students a license to stop Ann Coulter and they ran with it.

What happens when those students want to host their own controversial speaker. Will they enjoy a much anticipated feminist speaker not being allowed to speak for fear that she might say something offensive to men? Would they enjoy having hordes of angry men outside pounding on the door, threatening their safety, and forcing them to sneak out the back?

Didn't think so.

They are trashing freedom of speech and they do not even realize it. They don't understand that they need free speech too because they think that their positions are unanswerable, nice, politically correct, tolerant, and self-evidently true. Maybe Ann Coulter could have shaken some of the smug complacency out of them. Maybe not. But they need to learn sooner or later that their positions are offensive to many people and they are not self-evidently true.

We all need free speech. We need it, they need it. What do they think gave them the right to chant outside?

Free speech.


  1. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Well said Rebekah. The left have long monopolised this particular aspect of fascism. When I was at Uni in UK during the Thatcher years, it was virtually impossible for a government minister to give a talk to students. The leftist yobbetariat would use violence and noise to ensure that. The reverse was not true – a leftie like Tony Benn could travel and speak wherever he liked, without let or hindrance from right wing students.
    What was amazing was the justification provided by the leftoids. “We believe in free speech but not for people like him/her” was the usual mantra. One such howler was speaking to the press about his actions, and in response to the general hubbub around him, shouted out “Shut up, let me have my say”. It’s really hard to reason with logic like that.
    Even lefties were at risk if they weren’t left enough. I recall Neil Kinnock, then head of the Labour Party, being shoved and abused, not by the (extreme right) National Front, nor by Young Tories, but by militants in his own party.
    It was noticeable that the lefties invariably studied the soggier disciplines. I saw no, er, progressives in the Dept of Mathematics and Computer Science. Nor were they in evidence in Engineering or any of the tougher courses. No, for them the gentler demands of Gender Studies, Sociology, Art History and the like.

  3. I mentioned in my last posting that the leftist students were generally immersed in the undemanding academic meringue of “Gender Studies, Sociology…” I have just spotted this beauty at - see the quote by “Rita Valeriano, a second-year sociology and women’s studies student”. I rest my case, your honour.

  4. Thank you for posting this. Young people like you give me hope for the future. So many young people give me little hope.

  5. Good for you. If there's any hope for the future of free people everywhere (and I'm not so sure there is), it rests in young people like you.

    (From an admiring reader who learned of you from a link provided by the indispensible Mark Steyn.)

  6. Nice work. Keep the faith and defending your right to be free. - US Freespeecher

  7. Well done Rebekah. If you wanted to add my blog to your list of "Canucki Conservatives" I would be honored. You can check it out and see if you consider it worthy.

  8. Yay! Mark Steyn linked to you. Good story! I'm sorry you couldn't hear her speak...

    No way to avoid sounding awkward about this, but excuse my compulsion: Laurier's quote has its not it's. Easy mistake to make (I do it myself) since 's is the non-pronoun possessive marker.

    Garrh. I feel like a heel now. Keep up the good work!

  9. Liberals love liberty only as long as only they have it.

  10. "Freespeechers go home"?! What next, "Viva la Muerte!"?

  11. Thank you very much for all the comments.

    @ winteryknight, thanks for writing on it yourself.

    @ Sholto Douglas, there is no one that a leftist hates as much as someone they think ought to be on their side. Observe the hatred of right-wing women.

    @ Anonymous and Jack Jolis, thank you. I hope to justify your hope.

    @ Anonymous US, watch out, you're next.

    @ Principalson, will do.

    @ Topsy, arghhh. You caught me. Fixed now. Thank you!

    @ TylerNull, And when only the cops and brownshirts have the guns...

    @ Andie, Ever heard the euthanasia debates?