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Fascists shut down again in Vancouver

White supremacists forced to cancel their event

March 14, 2019

Some energetic grassroots organizing was all it took to force white supremacists to reschedule their speaking event, not once but twice. The inaccurately named “free-speech club” – in reality an organization primarily devoted to bringing alt-right celebrities to UBC and Vancouver – had booked professional bigots Stephan Molyneux and Lauren Southern. They had initially planned to hold their event at the Chan Center on the UBC campus. In response a UBC grad student quickly organized a new coalition, Students Against Bigotry (SAB), to shut down the event – a member of the International Socialists is also a member of this coalition. At the same time, the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM), also planned a protest. SAB and the RSM agreed to coordinate and publicly advertise their plans to protest the event as well as write letters to various news outlets and to the UBC administration demanding to know why UBC was welcoming avowed racists and anti-feminists to speak on campus.

Almost certainly in response to our concerted pressure, the Chan Center canceled the event, bigots were forced to quickly book a new venue: the center of the Hellenic Community of Vancouver. Not content with having chased the Nazi wannabes off of our campus, both the SAB and the RSM resolved that they were not welcome anywhere else in Vancouver either! We therefore agreed that we would protest the community center on the evening of the event. In the lead up to the protest, we handed out leaflets at UBC, stuck posters all over the city, and flooded the administration of the Hellenic Community with emails, phone calls, and Facebook posts. This was all it took to pressure the centre’s administration into canceling the event, which is now scheduled to take place in an undisclosed location at an undisclosed time.

Unfortunately the Hellenic Community of Vancouver didn’t cancel the event because they don’t want to be associated with white supremacy and hate speech, apparently that was never a problem. Instead they decided to blame eye-rollingly ridiculous claims of threats violence by what they call “fringe groups” and a “domestic terrorist organization” (allegedly ANTIFA) and which it “deemed very credible.” While socialists should be deeply suspicious of the often cynical ways in which the government decides who is and who is not a terrorist, it is still rather hard to figure out just whom they are referring to here. The Canadian government provides a list of groups it classes as terrorist entities, needless to say, SAB, the IS, and the RSM are not on the list, nor even is ANTIFA – that nebulous bogeyman that the courageous folks of the alt-right seem to think is hiding under each and every one of their beds. The number of actual left-wing terrorist incidents in BC is also vanishingly small, even by the government's own account, there have only been two in BC since the eighties (the last one was in 2008). While both the “free-speech club” and the administration of the Hellenic Community are being deliberately vague about the exact nature of the threats, the allegation and any hypothetical threats are frankly difficult to credit – unless of course, the they consider protests to be violent by definition. In which case, I am delighted to inform the “free-speech” club, and anyone irresponsible enough to give them a platform, that they can expect more protests and angry letters in the future. These things are not forms of violence. What is violent is defending South African apartheid, or actually organizing a ship to block rescue operations from saving refugees in the Mediterranean. The “free-speech” club and their allies want to paint themselves as victims, and all those who object to them as powerful, totalitarian, and violent – but how could we ever hope to compare with the violence of the far right? As the SAB has said, “there is no greater violence than the rise of far-right extremism that threatens already marginalized members of our communities. These are our friends, families, colleagues, classmates, teachers, and neighbours. We will continue to stand in solidarity with them, and we hope you will too.”

There is nothing totalitarian about shutting down fascists, preventing them from organizing or gathering, and in general making them afraid to spout their hate in public. Nor is a protest inherently violent. But they got one thing right: when we organize, people of color, women, immigrants, and all the other people who oppose bigotry can be powerful indeed – and we showed just a hint of that power here.

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