On the night of October 4th, 2013 a few dozen Brock University students, Alumni and community members sat in on a talk given by anti-choice extremist Stephanie Gray. Some had the aim of disrupting the event to provide a counter and expose the staged/canned “debate and dialogue” angle that Gray’s far right Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) attempts to hide behind.
As the crowd heckled Gray throughout the beginning of her talk she signalled, to what we now know where security hired by the host organizers of the event – Brock Life Line, to remove these people from the crowd. As she lectured those who heckled to started saying – “you have a choice…” – at which point a woman in the crowd stood up and yelled “Yes, I do have a choice” and unfurled a banner with the text “Never Again” drawn over the image of a coat hanger. As the hired security advanced toward females in the front row a male student in the second row attempted to walk behind the hired security in order to hold the other end of the banner. He was quickly grabbed, spun around and attacked by three males (two who were hired security, a third just a bystander who wanted to participate). At no point was this student asked to leave, or given any chance to retreat. He was grabbed almost simultaneously as he stood. Moments after his removal hired security fabricated the claim that this student intended to “rush the stage” and weeks later in testimony delivered via an impending disciplinary panel a new fabrication – that the student punched one of the hired security – has surfaced. Neither claim can be corroborated with any of the many angles of video evidence that exist from the night.
The CEO of Isaac’s Brock Bar and Grill – who was present – noticed that at least one of his hired security for the night was escalating the situation and he demanded that he leave from the front door area where the removed student was waiting to file a complaint with Brock Security. That hired security then went back into the event and began to place his hands on females still inside the event who were disrupting the talk in response to watching a male ally assaulted and forcibly removed from the room. Absurdly, this hired security would again claim that it was those who opposed the event who assaulted him – while video record clearly shows the opposite.
In the aftermath the student who was assaulted filed a complaint with Brock Security. Although there was a large presence on the part of the Niagara Regional Police – no further charges or investigation stemmed from the night.
On Thursday October 24th, two of the students mentioned above received written notice that they were to face a disciplinary panel the following Wednesday – for allegations of assault, harassment, failure to comply and disruptive behavior. Two of the alleged actions (assault and harassment) are of a criminal nature that should be investigated by the Niagara Regional Police, filed by a prosecutor and heard by a Judge. Failure to comply could have been given at the scene by either Brock Security or the Niagara Regional Police and was not, and “disruptive behavior” is a vague catch all that refuses to acknowledge that case law regarding University campuses has long protected the rights of the student body to engage in protest and advocacy that may be disruptive in nature. In civil terms, the contract relationship that Isaac’s Brock entered into with Brock LifeLine went on as planned – the entire talk was delivered. Although the opposition to the event was “disruptive” – the scale of that disruption was a result of the actions of security hired by the host group – Brock Life Line – and even still there could be no damages claimed as the event simply continued on. The public has and should have, grave doubts about the ability of a panel of “peers” to “discipline” these students.
What is most telling of all though is that the Brock Administration, Brock University Student’s Union, Brock Security and the Brock Student Justice Centre – all who have come out in defense of hosting this event – have all accepted this issue in the larger narrative of the “abortion debate.” None of those asked from these positions have understood the actual positions of Stephanie Gray, or the CCBR.
As the event carried on, a female audience member took time in the Q and A to tell Stephanie Gray that she did not regret her abortion and that in doing so the quality of life for her and her children were significantly increased. Stephanie Gray mocked this woman and relayed that she should be charged and convicted as a murderer for the decision she made. This is a point that Gray has made publicly before saying, “I would say the consequences for a woman who has an abortion…would be no different from the consequences for a woman who kills her born children.”
The aim of organizations like CCBR and Gray are to use the cover of “debate” in order to advance positions that aim to not only strip women of bodily autonomy – but also to criminalize them for exercising it.
This is a speaker defended by Brock University, Brock University Students Union and the Brock Student Justice Centre.
The effect of allowing this person, repeatedly, to freely express themselves on a campus where sexual violence occurs and where a portion of the student body could be portrayed as “murderers” is chilling. This also counters the mandate for Student Groups, as well as violates the Student Charter and many University policies created in order to provide a safe and respectful environment for students. THIS is what reproductive justice advocates were responding to in disruptive and countering this event. To engage such a thing in “debate” assumes that it is a position worth debating. It is not.
The fact that the University continues to defend this event and also the actions taken by hired security inside one of their facilities is troubling. It appears as though the University will actually continue to try and save face even as more comes to light about the nature of the event as well as the actions taken by those representing the University.
The effect is even further reaching if Gray is allowed to continue to spew hate speech on this campus. As a growing internationally recognized campus – Brock University has many students from countries which Gray contends are engaged in “Gendercide,” her term for sex selective abortion. Not only are the murderers among us on campus in the form of female students and staff who have had abortions, but also in the form of those who come from such “uncivilized” and “backwards” cultures who supposedly engage in “Genocide.” This line of thinking does nothing to provide a safe study environment for international students who should not have to fear Western Imperialism in the form of a supposed concern for the unborn. How Brock University can both protect speech like this, while continuing to try to attract International Students, is absurd.
The disciplinary panel for these students is, at time of writing, still scheduled for Wednesday at 1pm. Students have rallied in support of the two named in the panel and a support demonstration has been organized to coincide with that panel. I’d urge everyone who can clear their afternoon to be at that demonstration.