Hate speech rumblings cause impromptu protest

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By Aleysha Haniff

A single man with a provocative sign sparked an impromptu protest at Ryerson on Friday. The man, who dubbed himself “The Lone Protestor,” held a sign with an “Islamist Apartheid” hit list on one side and a message about “raging Islamists” on the other. “I am not attacking all Muslims,” he said, noting he was focusing on radical Muslims. His sign was in response to Israeli Apartheid Week, an event held at Ryerson and other universities worldwide. The man stood at Gould and Victoria Streets for hours until a small group of students began to protest next to him in the afternoon. “This is definitely hate, or at least he’s promoting hatred,” said Mohamed Daoud, a electrical engineering master’s student. He held a sign with the words “Go to Ryerson so you don’t end up like this guy.” “Free speech not hate speech” was written on the other side. Police who responded to the scene said the Lone Protester was allowed to stand near Ryerson because he was technically on public property. Imre Juurlink, security supervisor, said sidewalks and streets belong to the City of Toronto. “If he had been on Ryerson’s property with the sign, we definitely would have told him to leave — not so much because whether or not he has the right to write on a sign what he wants to write on a sign but because of the reaction it caused,” Juurlink said. Police also said the criminal code doesn’t specifically define hate speech. Canadian criminal law, however, has rules for hate propaganda. Legally, you can be charged with advocating genocide and public incitement of hatred. In other words, protesters cannot promote violence or cause a breach of peace. Section C-46, which outlines these measures also provides possible defences. In particular, people cannot be convicted of public incitement of hatred “if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject.” And some, like project director Abby Deshman from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, can argue why it’s important to allow viewpoints that some people find unpleasant. “In general, a university is a place that should be encouraging diverse points of view,” Deshman said. “Freedom of expression is central to the mandate of the university [overall.}” The Lone Protester returned to campus on March 22. Though the police were called again, the man failed to attract much attention apart from the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and a handful of passersby.

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