09 February 2009

Mob Rule

Last Friday night, St. Mary's University (Halifax, Nova Scotia) pro-life club hosted pro-life speaker Jojo Ruba from the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform. Just after his presentation began, a mob of angry abortion activists disrupted his lecture. You can see video footage from the event in the above video. (They enter about 1 minute in).

Mr. Ruba kept his cool and tried to dialogue with the mob, but instead of answering his questions, they fell back on chants like "not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate," "women's bodies, women's lives, women won't be terrorized" and "Pro-life men have got to go! When you get pregnant, let us know!" According to media coverage, (here, and here) it looks like campus security showed up half an hour after the protestors, followed by Halifax police. The protesters were told to disband or face possible charges or arrest. At this point, coverage of the incident becomes unclear (I'm piecing it together from about a dozen blog posts, and some of them contradict each other)- I'm not sure if the protestors did disband, or if they remained outside the presentation shouting their rhetoric, but we do know that the speaker was ordered off campus by St. Mary's officials. He went to a nearby Catholic Church and finished his presentation.

This is absolutely ridiculous- the presentation had all the appropriate permissions, and did nothing wrong, but it was thrown off campus because a mob didn't like what it had to say? Huh? How does that make any sense? It seems there were fears that the mob might turn violent- an e-mail allegedly circulated earlier that day to pro-abortion supporters said they had to do whatever was necessary to prevent the presentation from going forward- but that is no excuse for shutting down the presentation.

What is happening on universities across Canada? What is happening to free speech? Are we no longer going to even pretend to claim we have free speech, because that's what seems to be happening. If the presentation had permission to occur (which it did) why was it forced to leave? The protesters should have been arrested. I believe strongly that everyone has a right to present their opinion, but that does not include the right to act as part of a violent mob. Had those protesters sat down to hear the presentation and then asked questions, I would have no problem with their behavior. However, instead of being respectful and engaging in meaningful dialogue, they engaged in mob activity and tried to suppress someone else's right to express their own opinion.

I hope St. Mary's administration realizes what they did was wrong and apologizes for it. Not only did they censor a valid academic debate, they gave into the will of a mob which sets a dangerous precedent. They should apologize to Mr. Ruba and take action against the members of the mob. At the very least, they should invite Mr. Ruba back, and pay all his expenses to have him give his talk again- this time without interruptions.

A quote from Gandhi has been going around the campus pro-life world lately- I thought I'd share it with all of you. "First they ignore us, then they ridicule us, then they fight us, then we win."

Update: To see the rest of the presentation, go here.

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