Hundreds of protesters massed outside Roy Thompson Hall tonight in a demonstration against the Munk Debate featuring Steve Bannon and David Frum.
Police have beaten protesters with batons, pepper sprayed the crowd, and arrested a number of demonstrators.
Protestors moving closer amid pepper spraying from police https://t.co/j4CLWeTxsp
— Varsity News (@VarsityNewsUofT) November 2, 2018
Bannon and Frum are debating the rise of populism. Bannon — the chief source of controversy — is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a far-right American media outlet, and a former White House Chief Strategist under Donald Trump. He has been criticized for his white nationalist views and associations with white supremacy.
Frum was a speechwriter for former US President George W. Bush as well as a political commentator.
The protest began outside the hall, but moved onto Simcoe Street, which was shut down for the demonstration.
As attendees began to line up to enter the venue, protesters converged on the police barricades, yelling “shame” at the line into Roy Thompson Hall.
Protesters were also asking police, “Who do you protect?”
The pepper spraying began as groups of masked protesters pushed along the barricade, opposing the attendees who were trying to enter the venue.
Police with batons were called in when protesters attempted to jump the barricade into Roy Thompson Hall.
Toronto Police have reported that 12 people were arrested facing various charges. In addition, two police officers suffered “fairly minor” injuries — one officer was hit with a stick and another was punched in the face.
As of 10:18 pm, all roads were reopened.
Among the groups that attended the protest were the U of T Flying Squad, an activist wing of a U of T union; the Ontario Public Interest Research Group, a volunteer-based group at U of T; and Toronto ANTIFA, a left-wing anti-fascist group.
In a statement to The Varsity after the debate, the Flying Squad expressed concern about the lack of comment from the university on the debate, especially since U of T has received significant amounts of money from the Munk family and related groups, according to the Flying Squad.
In particular, the group points out that U of T professor Janice Stein and two U of T fellows sit on the Munk Debates advisory board, saying that this serves as proof of the inherent ties between the university and the Munk Debates organization.
The Varsity has reached out to OPIRG Toronto for comment.
Update (November 3, 2:14 am): This story has been updated to include more information from Toronto Police.
Update (November 8, 5:25 pm): This story has been updated to include comment from the Flying Squad.