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Sidebar: Free speech flashpoints

By Justin Dallaire

Universities across North America are seeing an upswing in confrontations between ideologically opposed groups over the question of who should be permitted to speak on campus. A recent sampling:

August 2017: Several hundred torch-bearing white supremacists marched on the University of Virginia’s campus shouting racist and anti-immigration slogans. Clashes with counterprotesters resulted in multiple injuries, including the death of a 32-year-old woman, who was killed when a car plowed into a crowd. An Ohio man, who espoused Nazi ideology, was charged with second-degree murder.

July 2017: In defence of free speech, North Carolina enacts a bill that imposes penalties on students who disrupt speakers. Similar legislation is being considered in Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia and California.

April 2017: A speech by conservative commentator Ann Coulter is cancelled at the University of California, Berkeley, amid security concerns. The next day, free speech and anti-hate speech demonstrators gather amid heavy police presence.

March 2017: At the Brantford, Ont., campus of Wilfrid Laurier University, an address by lawyer Danielle Robitaille is cancelled due to safety concerns. Robitaille was part of the legal team that successfully defended CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi against sexual assault charges.

March 2017: An event featuring controversial University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson is interrupted at McMaster University in Hamilton by protesters carrying air horns and cowbells. Peterson is forced to move outside to lecture amid protests.

February 2017:
Protests erupt at UC Berkeley ahead of a planned appearance by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, causing $100,000 in damage to the campus.

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