Toronto police arrested twelve protestors Friday afternoon outside the city’s Roy Thomson Hall during a rally against Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to U.S. President Donald Trump.
The protesters were charged with various offences including assault and trespassing. They were among a group of approximately 1,500 people staging the demonstration before Bannon’s scheduled participation in the Munk Debates series. He was to debate Canadian-born conservative commentator David Frum on the topic of the rise of populism, a controversial issue which Bannon supports.
Two police officers received minor injuries over the course of the night.
Bannon was Trump’s former senior advisor and the founder of right-wing media outlet Breitbart News. He has been heavily scrutinized for his association with and support of populist, white nationalist and far-right political groups around the world.
Almost 2,800 people with tickets to attend the event, who were lining up outside the theatre, were taunted by the protesters.
“No hate, no fear, Nazis are not welcome here!” they chanted. Others called out “Racists Go Home!” and “Shame on you!”
Elizabeth Rowley, the leader of the Communist Party of Canada, stood among the protestors, distributing literature to passers-by. Rowley said Bannon should not have been allowed to speak.
“He’s a white supremacist, he’s a Fascist, he attacks women, he attacks minorities, he attacks Muslims,” Rowley said. “This isn’t a question of free speech. It’s an incitement of hatred and an incitement of criminal acts.”
Some protestors spat on the ticket holders, while others yelled out threats and insults.
J.P Luisi found himself being called a “Nazi supporter” as he stood in line. A protestor spat on his feet.
“I think a lot of it is faux outrage really,” Luisi said after a tense argument with a masked protestor. “They just want to be angry about something.”
He said he was merely interested in hearing what both people had to say.
“So I really don’t see what the issue is with all the Antifa types here,” he said.
The protests briefly turned violent when three people wearing masks, from a group called “Hamilton Against Fascism” attempted to chain the doors of Roy Thomson Hall shut.
King St + Simcoe St
-Roy Thompson Hall
-12 people were arrested
-They all face various charges
-2 police officers were injured
-1 officer hit with a stick, another punched in the face
-Injuries are considered fairly minor
-All roads are now open#GO2023048
— Toronto Police Operations (@TPSOperations) November 3, 2018
The debate between Bannon and Frum ended in a draw, but the result was controversial due to a technical error in the live voting system.