By Noushin Ziafati
About 100 people gathered on Gould Street on Aug. 22 to speak out against transphobia, racism and hate speech as well as to celebrate the cancellation of a panel that was scheduled to take place at Ryerson that same day.
The crowd shouted several chants, such as “Smash racism. No platform for fascists!” and “When trans rights are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back!” along with drummers from Rhythms of Resistance-Toronto.
Chants from today’s diversity/anti-fascist rally at Ryerson: “Trans rights are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back!” pic.twitter.com/S6RhJMFLVP
— Noushin (@nziafati) August 22, 2017
“We are here to celebrate our diversity,” Christeen Elizabeth told the crowd and thanked them for standing in solidarity.
Elizabeth was one of the organizers of the rally, which also saw representatives from a number of organizations, including Socialist Action, United for Palestine-Toronto/GTA and Fightback Canada, which also has a chapter at Ryerson called the Socialist Fightback Club.
Speakers at the rally included Elizabeth, trans activist Sawyer Arnold, Marco La Grotta from Fightback Canada and Barry Weisleder from Socialist Action.
“We don’t want these people. We don’t want these bigoted views on our campus and we are doing everything we can to summon students, working class people, community members to organize in a massive way to tell them, ‘We don’t want you here,’” said Marco La Grotta, an organizer for Fightback Canada and a former student at Ryerson.
Anti-fascism rally happening now on Gould Street pic.twitter.com/yvY9IZ45Bg
— The Eyeopener (@theeyeopener) August 22, 2017
The panel, which was titled “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses”, was to feature controversial speakers University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson and Rebel Media’s Faith Goldy. Ryerson released a statement on Aug. 16 that the panel discussion would be cancelled due to “safety concerns” given the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia in which white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members clashed with counter protesters in the streets and a car drove into a crowd killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
The rally was initially planned to prevent the panel from taking place and it also became a space for participants to remember Heyer and her activism. The rally’s organizers made a Facebook event page called “No Fascists in Our City!” and told community members to contact Ryerson University and pressure them to cancel the panel discussion.
However, even after the panel’s cancellation, the rally’s organizers decided to go on with hosting the event to speak out against “hateful ideals” that were being passed around by the panellists, according to Elizabeth.
“At this point, we want to show Ryerson and the student body and the community there, that we are united against, what we believe are truly the seeds of fascism,” she said.
Photos by Premila D’Sa, Sarah Krichel and Nicole Brumley.