Policy advocate criticizing London council’s emergency motion as an “attack on free speech”

PEGIDA Canada stages anti-islam rally outside of London city hall, in this July 22, 2017 photo. PEGIDA began their protest around Victoria Park, starting at London City Hall.
PEGIDA Canada stages anti-islam rally outside of London city hall, in this July 22, 2017 photo. PEGIDA began their protest around Victoria Park, starting at London City Hall. Christian D'Avino / AM980

London City Hall is coming under fire for what some are calling an “attack on free speech”, after unanimously passing an emergency motion Tuesday night to stand against hatred and racism.

It comes in response to an anti-Islam rally scheduled on Saturday by the Canadian chapter of the German nationalist and far-right political movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA in its German abbreviation.

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London Institute Executive Director Amir Farahi has accused council of making a “knee-jerk” reaction by condemning the activities of organizations whose ideologies are contrary to the city’s.

“[Mayor Matt Brown] said there’s no place in London for racism, bigotry, and hatred. Okay, I agree with you… but there certainly is a place for us to free assembly and for us to freely express ourselves,” Farahi said Wednesday on AM980’s The Andrew Lawton Show.
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The motion is as follows: “That civic administration be directed to prepare the necessary formal council policy to confirm the prohibition of activities of organizations whose ideologies is contrary to the City of London are not permitted in civic spaces, and/or facilities and spaces.”

READ MORE: Anti-racism advocates mobilizing counter-protest of PEGIDA’s city hall rally

Farahi has launched a petition, calling on Mayor Matt Brown to repeal part of the motion.

“I’m quite disgusted by the fact that our fundamental rights, our constitutional rights here in Canada, in London, are basically being taken away from us under the guise of political correctness.”

He points out that victims of hate speech are already protected by hate speech laws, and violators face the full extent of the law.

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City hall security officials say they’re partnering with London Police to monitor the situation outside city hall on Saturday. PEGIDA’s anti-Islam rally is scheduled to begin at noon, but human rights and anti-violence groups will already be at the scene, taking part in counter-protests that will begin at 10:30 a.m.

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Mayor Matt Brown has now committed to attending the counter-protest, despite saying in a radio interview this month that it would be inappropriate for him to attend and give unneeded attention to the anti-Islam group.

“I didn’t want to throw fuel in the fire,” he explained on AM980’s The Craig Needles Show.

“I’ve seen a ground swell of people moving toward attending the anti-hate rally, which I think is very positive. So I’ve moved my schedule around, and I want to join London and stand together, and just express that the vast majority of Londoners don’t accept hate.”

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Brown will be joined by several members of City Council, as well as some members of provincial and federal parliament.

AM980 has confirmed that MPs Peter Fragiskatos and Kate Young and MPPs Teresa Armstrong and Peggy Sattler will take part in the counter-demonstration.

MP Irene Mathyssen has expressed her support for council’s motion and has encouraged Londoners to attend the counter-protest but is unable to attend as she is still in Europe as part of a veteran’s affairs trip.

In an email, a spokesperson for Deputy Premier Deb Matthews, MPP for London North Centre, said Matthews would be out of the city over the weekend and as a result would not be attending.

AM980 has reached out to the offices of MP Karen Vecchio, and to the office of MPP Jeff Yurek.