Free Speech Prevails in Winnipeg
By David Kattenburg
Local Zionists tried their darndest to block Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour from speaking at an event, yesterday evening, in Canada’s prairie capital, Winnipeg. Sarsour is an antisemite, they screamed, and denies Israel’s “right to exist”! Winnipeg social justice activists pushed back.
On the evening of Friday, April 26, Sorry Not Sorry: Unapologetically Working for Social Justice unfolded without a hitch, exceeding expectations. Click on the play button below.
Organized by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute, the event had originally been booked into a modern arts facility of Winnipeg’s Seven Oaks school division. Under pressure from B’Nai Brith Canada, the Winnipeg Jewish Federation and their supporters, school trustees withdrew the venue.
Winnipeg activists are accustomed to having their events trashed under pressure from local Israel supporters. Sorry Not Sorry organizers secured another, arguably better venue: the Ukrainian Labour Temple, a grand old, recently restored union hall in Winnipeg’s north end.
A last minute attempt to foil the event failed. Standing side by side with local Zionists at an impromptu press conference, earlier this week, Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman called on event organizers to disinvite Sarsour. The pint-sized, 39-year-old activist denies Israel’s “right to exist,” Bowman said, and targets Jewish people with “hateful comments and rhetoric.”
Nonsense, organizers said, and stood their ground. “I’ve seen much worse before,” Sarsour told a press conference prior to Friday evening’s event. “I’ve been targeted by the son of the President of the United States. I can take a little mayor from Winnipeg.” Click on play button below.
Event organizers were less sanguine. An ominous “Israel Hate Alert” from a local group called “Warriors of Israel,” had called on local Israel supporters to fight for their rights.
It proved to be bluster. Across the street from the Ukrainian Labour Temple, where an excited crowd filed into the union hall, a dozen pro-Israel activists huddled beneath an Israeli flag flapping in the chilly evening wind, under the watchful eyes of a half dozen Winnipeg police and a contingent from Winnipeg’s First Nations Bear Clan Patrol.
The Ukrainian Labour Temple — beautifully restored in time for the hundredth anniversary of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike — was literally packed to the rafters. On stage, three powerful, articulate woman shared their dreams, visions and action strategies. Chantell Barker is a First Nations woman from Sapotoweyak Cree Nation, and the current Director of Justice for the Southern Chiefs Organization. Nora Loreto is a Quebec City-based writer, activist and podcaster.
The star of the evening, Linda Sarsour, is a Palestinian-American social justice activist, community organizer and lightning rod for radical justice advocates across North America.
Listen to what they had to say: