Students in Support of Free Speech (SSFS), a campus group that formed in the wake of controversies surrounding U of T professor Jordan Peterson, has apologized for the presence of Paul Fromm, a noted white supremacist, at a rally organized by the group on July 15.
The rally was held in support of the ‘Halifax Five’ from the ‘Proud Boys’, a group of five military members who disrupted an Indigenous ceremony on Canada Day and have since become the subject of national media scrutiny.
In the video apology posted to YouTube on July 20, SSFS President Marilyn Jang addressed Fromm’s presence at the rally, referring to him as “one of Canada’s most bigoted and notorious individuals.”
“The Students in Support of Free Speech completely reject the views, and presence at any SSFS event of Mr. Paul Fromm,” Jang said. “Mr. Fromm is one of the individuals that we hold as truly representing the value of the word bigot or racist — although he would prefer the term ‘racialist.’ We believe that if Mr. Fromm had any courtesy, he would have directly informed us of his intentions to attend our event, to which we would have firmly asked that he do not attend.”
Fromm has ties to neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, such as the Klu Klux Klan and Stormfront. His presence at the rally sparked an outcry from left-wing protesters who have accused SSFS of being a racist group itself, which SSFS has repeatedly denied.
In an earlier post to the SSFS Facebook page, which has since been deleted, the group claimed that organizers did not know what Fromm looked like and that “if we had been aware of Paul Fromm’s identity and affiliations at the time of the rally, we could not have forced him to leave, as the rally was held on public property, although of course we would have prevented him from using our megaphone.”
The rally, held at the 48th Highlanders of Canada Regimental Memorial on the north side of Queen’s Park, was met with groups of counter protesters, one of which held a large sign reading “Toronto Against Fascists.”
In her video, Jang also apologizes for the choice of venue for the rally, saying it was “an extremely unthoughtful choice of venue for any rally, especially ones that may be seen as controversial. Memorials should solely be seen as a symbol of remembrance and a way to honour the fallen.”
Jang reiterated in the video that SSFS believes it is important to allow those who hold despicable views to be heard so that their ideas can be defeated publicly. She also confirmed that Fromm was not invited to attend the rally by SSFS, “nor is he, or his associates, welcome at any future events that we hold.”
The Varsity has reached out to Fromm for comment.