U.S. activist Linda Sarsour speaks in Winnipeg despite mayor’s request
Social justice activist Linda Sarsour went ahead with her talk in Winnipeg Friday, despite calls from the city’s mayor that she be prevented from speaking.
“I’ve been targeted by the son of the president of the United States of America, so I think I can take a little mayor from Winnipeg.” Sarsour said.
The American political activist was one of three key speakers at the event called “Sorry, Not Sorry: Unapologetically Working for Social Justice,” hosted by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute.
Many people, including Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman, called for her to be disinvited over a history of comments some say are anti-Semitic.
Sarsour is a vocal advocate against Islamophobia and in support of Palestinian rights. She has been at the forefront of many social movements, including the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
“Mayor Bowman made a respectful request to the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg to remove Linda Sarsour as a panelist and continues to stand by that request,” read a statement issued to CTV Winnipeg from the Office of the Mayor.
“Many in Winnipeg feel targeted by the hateful comments and rhetoric of Linda Sarsour, and Mayor Bowman feels strongly that Winnipeg residents should not feel targeted simply for being who they are,” the statement goes on.
Heather Stefanson, Deputy Premier of Manitoba, agreed with Bowman’s decision, denouncing Sarsour’s appearance on Twitter.
“It is never acceptable to allow for the willful promotion of hatred; it is unconscionable to provide a platform to such a divisive speaker while senseless acts of hatred, violence, and brazen anti-Semitism continue to afflict our neighbours,” Stefanson wrote.
During a press conference Friday, Sarsour said that although she was shocked by Bowman’s comments.
“I thought I was being invited to a democratic country where the Canadian people enjoy freedom of speech and want to afford it to everyone and I was quite shocked that a mayor would be denouncing a person he does not know,” she said.
“This event tonight is about let’s agree to disagree—and I hold particular views as a Palestinian-American and I should be afford to hold those views.”
Sarsour also encouraged Bowman to engage in conversation with Winnipeg’s Palestinian community.
Protesters gathered outside the event in opposition to Sarsour’s appearance.
“It mainly divides the community, it does not unite the community, and that's the main message. We don’t want hate speech here,” said protester Richard Weiss.
Sarsour did have some support from the Jewish community. During the press conference, Harold Shuster of Independent Jewish Voices spoke in support of the activist.
“On Tuesday, Mayor Bowman condemned Sarsour for attacking the foundation of Israel’s right to exist, suggesting this and other supposed transgressions to be a sign of her anti-Semitic views and hate,” said Shuster.
“Memo to Brian Bowman: Sarsour is a Palestinian whose land is currently being occupied and actively colonized by an Israeli state that discriminates against her by law. Is it any wonder why anyone, let alone a Palestinian, might challenge the nature of such a state?”
Following a deadly shooting inside a synagogue near San Diego Saturday, Sarsour took to Twitter to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community.
“Of course killing Jewish worshippers on the last day of Passover is a hate crime,” she wrote.
“Can’t find the right words but hope our Jewish family knows we stand with them in these dark moments and always.”