The evening started with picnics, popsicles and pop music and ended with a piercing fire alarm, Soldiers of Odin and the arrival of the Oak Bay Police and Fire Department.
Transgender speaker and political critic Jenn Smith brought his anti-SOGI event, the Erosion of Freedom, to the Windsor Pavilion May 2 and was promptly met with the unrelenting opposition of Greater Victoria’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies.
As he walked in, flanked by a small support staff, the bright and colourful crowd lifted its signs to the sky. “SOGI SAVES LIVES,” they chanted, repeating the phrase again and again until Smith disappeared inside the building.
But the protest didn’t stay outside. Protesters occupied the talk itself, holding hands at the front of the room with Pride flags draped over their shoulders, singing a Coast Salish warrior song. Eventually a fire alarm was pulled.
Jenn Smith’s talk was over before it started, which is exactly what he hoped for.
The protests, tension and high emotion of the crowd was recorded and clipped into videos shared to YouTube where protesters were ‘doxed’ – their identities outed, and shamed.
|Protesters lined the room where the Erosion of Freedom event was supposed to take place. They created so much noise and commotion, the event was essentially cancelled. Since then video clips of protesters have been posted on alt-right Youtube and Facebook accounts. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)|
Smith has taken to Facebook – the place his supporters fester – to share the footage, calling protesters “free speech trampling spoiled rotten children” and the protest an “assault on freedom.”
And its true that he never got a chance to share his earth-shattering thoughts on SOGI 123 with the room, which was instead overpowered by “monsters” with noise makers and glitter rainbows on their cheeks.
In other words, the event, despite being a colossal failure at face value, has done everything Smith hoped it would.
For Smith, there is power and polarization in dissension – and painting the LGBTQ+ community as a pitchfork-wielding, trigger-sensitive mob is exactly what he hopes will push people from indifference to “activism.”
And with social media, it doesn’t matter if Smith makes an impact in Greater Victoria at all. The people who actually came to listen to him talk aren’t valuable to Smith’s bizarre travelling show – it’s the sharing of bias-confirming video clips and comments that really propel his “activism.”
But in the end, hundreds of people stood in solidarity that night and collectively, showed that their strength very much exists in the real world and can drown out hatred, in whatever form it takes on.