Lindsay Jones, Daily New (Halifax), March 6, 2007
A self-described “race realist” may never get to share his views in Halifax.
Late yesterday afternoon, Saint Mary’s University administration pulled the plug on hosting a debate with Jared Taylor tonight, saying it did so because of threats of violence on a white-supremacist website.
Taylor returned to Halifax yesterday to make a second attempt at debating whether racial diversity is good.
He was supposed to square off against SMU philosophy professor Peter March. But the university said it needed more security than it could provide, including a metal detector.
At least six police officers planned to attend the event, said a Halifax Regional Police spokesman.
“There’s been at least one threat of stabbing and cutting for those coming into the event,” said SMU spokesman Chuck Bridges.
Bridges said a posting on a white supremacist website, Stormfront.org, discussed hiding weapons at the event and said: “I’ll cut you so bad and fast no one will know what happened.”
The website previously posted the picture, name and address of at least one of the protesters who interrupted Taylor’s earlier speech in Halifax.
Even though the university decided not to host the debate, it said it’s committed to fostering academic freedom and free speech.
March said he thinks security is an excuse and the threat is bogus, since it was made on an “obscure blog, with an obscure complaint by an unnamed person.”
About his university, March said: “They’re close-minded. They’re insecure. They don’t understand what universities are for and they don’t even think about what sacrifices people made in the past for free speech.”
March created a furor last year, when he posted an infamous series of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad outside his SMU office door.
Meanwhile, he said he will try to go ahead with the debate.
He said he wants to convince a broadcaster to videotape the debate in studio either today or tomorrow, but he’s not too hopeful.
“Even though racism is an extremely serious problem here, you can’t have an open, balanced debate on the issue,” March said. “It’s not going to be allowed.”
Taylor, who flew here from Virginia yesterday, said he thinks the university is “smothered in political correctness” and was looking for any excuse to cancel the debate. He said he’d be very surprised if someone came in with a “five pounds of TNT threat.”
“I think they’re just cowards,” Taylor said. “I think ideology of multi-racialism for them is an absolute straight-jacket, and they can’t get out of it.”
The controversial American magazine editor supports racial segregation, arguing that mixing different races leads to tension.
Taylor is scheduled to leave tomorrow. He said he doesn’t know if he will return a third time; he’s beginning to feel disheartened.
“I’d have to have some kind of assurances,” Taylor said. “I’m a busy guy. You don’t fly up here for free for this to be cancelled twice. It’s an absolutely lamentable commentary on this town’s commitment to free expression of ideas.”
At least one group of activists had planned a “vocal” protest outside the debate.
But Susan LeFort of the Halifax Coalition Against Poverty said the group would never resort to violence.
“I don’t think they would violate anybody’s personal right to personal safety,” LeFort said. “That’s never a mandate when we demonstrate. It’s to make the public aware of the atrocities that are happening.”
In January, Taylor and Dalhousie University professor David Divine were scheduled to have the same debate.
Divine, Dal’s black Canadian studies chair, cancelled it, because he feared people would misinterpret the topic.
Taylor came anyway, and was manhandled by a group of protesters at the Lord Nelson hotel before he could share his views.
Philosophy professor Peter March was scrambling Monday for a place to debate controversial American speaker Jared Taylor because Saint Mary’s University has decided not to let the event take place on its turf.
The event was set for 7 p.m. tonight at the Burke Education Building on Robie Street, but the Halifax university announced late Monday that it “has withdrawn the use of campus facilities for the proposed debate between Dr. Peter March and Mr. Jared Taylor.”
According to a Saint Mary’s news release, a review has concluded “that there is a higher level of personal risk and need for increased security than the university has the capacity to provide.”
University spokesman Chuck Bridges said security officials have been monitoring websites and contacting local organizations over the past few days. He said that review has been carried out “to get a sense of what may take place” as a result of the titillating talk between the notorious Halifax professor and the self-described “race realist” from Virginia.
“Their assessment is that this has gone from a risky venture to a high-risk (one),” Mr. Bridges said Monday evening, adding the university would have to double or triple the security needed to protect faculty, staff and students during the event.
“Because of the threat of stabbing that we’ve seen on one website, a metal detector may become necessary,” Mr. Bridges said.
He was referring to a threat made against a Halifax man who protested Mr. Taylor’s talk when he tried to speak in Halifax in mid-January.
“If we even suspect you of attempting to interrupt Mr. Taylor’s speech, I’ll cut you so bad and so fast no one will know what happened,” reads the message, reposted on a local Internet forum.
Mr. Taylor, publisher of the journal American Renaissance, was mobbed and manhandled out of a room he rented at the Lord Nelson Hotel when he tried to share his contentious views Jan. 16.
The names, addresses and phone numbers of some protesters were posted on an American “white pride” website following that demonstration.
Mr. Taylor was also banned from a Dalhousie University debate on racial diversity on Jan. 15 due to fears he may preach hatred.
Demonstrators planned to show up outside the Burke Education Building this evening, but according to online forums were considering greeting the two speakers with a mixed-race make-out party instead of the heckling used back in January.
“This ‘so-called debate’ is a provocation against the people of Canada and Nova Scotia,” a news release issued Monday by protest organizers said. “It is an attack on the rights of all.”
Protest spokesman Isaac Saney said the university’s decision to pull out is an example of “the strength of the people.”
The Dalhousie University professor said the move proves Halifax will not provide an easy platform for people with “these kind of fascist and racist views, these supremacist views.”
Mr. March, who garnered national attention for posting the controversial editorial cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad on his front door a year ago, has been footing the bill for holding the debate himself.
“Saint Mary’s has promised to refund all the costs for me, which is generous of them,” he said Monday night. But he said Jared Taylor had already arrived in Halifax in the afternoon on a non-refundable plane ticket.
Despite the last-minute setback, Mr. March was determined to find another venue.
He planned to call EastLink, hoping to schedule a studio recording of the debate today. He also planned to approach Mount Saint Vincent University to see if he could rent a lecture hall.
“But I’m very skeptical,” he said. “In Nova Scotia, we don’t talk about controversial topics—not topics that really interest people deep in their guts.
“So I don’t think that either of those locations will give us air, but (those are) the only prospects I have,” he admitted.
He said he’s hugely disappointed in his university because it isn’t allowing an interesting discussion to take place on its property.
He said the university is a setting that is “supposed to give people an opportunity to discuss the important issues of the day.”
“It’s a question of what you think free speech is worth,” Mr. March said.
“People go out and die for free speech in two world wars . . . and here the university . . . cancels because some anonymous person posts a note on a small blog.
“That’s not very heroic. It doesn’t sound like the university is in any way committed to protecting and enhancing academic freedom.”
He pointed out that Saint Mary’s refused to sponsor the debate from the beginning.
Mr. Saney said Mr. March’s freedom-of-speech argument is unfounded.
“It’s not a question of freedom of speech,” he said. “These people have launched a provocation and an attack on the rights of Canadians, not just people who come from so-called ethnic minorities. Racist and fascist views are treated as something very different.”
Mr. Taylor has said he believes in freedom of association, including between races, but that integration should not be forced. He planned to argue that racial diversity is a societal weakness that leads to conflict.
Although The Chronicle Herald could not reach Mr. Taylor at his Halifax hotel room Monday night, he told CTV News he was “absolutely disgusted” with this latest obstacle.
“I’ve come up here twice now hoping to speak on the subject onwhether racial diversity is a strength or a weakness,” he said. “It’s a legitimate subject for debate and apparently Halifax does not want to hear it.”