Protesters delay debate involving ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon

Police intervened in Toronto as chanting protesters delayedthe start of a debate featuring Steve Bannon

Police were forced to intervene as chanting protesters delayed the start of a Toronto debate featuring Steve Bannon, the former strategist who helped Donald Trump win the White House.

Video posted on social media showed officers outside the downtown venue using batons to hold back the crowd, and police tweeted that there had been “a number of arrests.”

Debate organizers explained the roughly half-hour delay by saying they anticipated protests and wanted to ensure everyone is safe.

Bannon has now been introduced as he defends political populism against conservative commentator David Frum.

Critics, who accuse Bannon of being a white supremacist, wanted the debate scrapped.

RELATED: Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon to defend populism at Toronto event

While the 90-minute event at a downtown auditorium was sold out, the theatre was barely half full at the scheduled start time.

To ensure the debate went ahead, albeit late, members of the public were seated even after it began.

Protesters, some holding signs deploring racism, yelled “Shame on you!” and “Nazi!” as people tried to get in, reducing one woman on her way into the debate to tears.

“We are going to work diligently as a group to make sure this is a safe evening,” said Rudyard Griffiths, the chairman and moderator of the debate. “That is going to require us to wait a little bit.”

The debate was slated to play out just ahead of the fiercely contested midterm congressional elections in the United States on Nov. 6. Organizers said about 2,700 people paid to attend, while several thousand more watched via livestream.

The proposition the two men were set to debate, with Bannon in favour and Frum opposed, was: “The future of western politics is populist, not liberal.”

Bannon, 64, former executive chairman of right-wing Breitbart News, helped Trump win the 2016 presidential election and was White House chief strategist for eight months until August 2017. The relationship soured after the president suggested Bannon had “lost his mind” for reportedly branding Trump’s son “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Bannon later walked back his comments but left his post at Breitbart in January.

Some critics have branded him as a racist and anti-Semite, epithets he has rejected.

RELATED: Trump removes Bannon from National Security Council

Friday’s event — part of the decade-old Munk Debates — was announced just days after Bannon was dropped from the speakers list at this month’s New Yorker Festival after an intense backlash and threats of a boycott by other guests. Critics in Canada also opposed allowing him to air his views on the grounds that he fuels hatred against disadvantaged groups.

Despite the blow-back, Griffiths stressed what he called the importance of allowing vigorous discussion of hot topics to allow the public to make up its own mind.

“Civil and substantive public debate of the big issues of our time helps all of us better understand the challenges we face as a society and what, if anything, can be done to resolve them,” Griffiths said.

Frum, 58, a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, is a former speechwriter for ex-U.S. president George W. Bush. The Canadian-American is also the author of the recent book “Trumpocracy,” which sharply criticizes the current American president as a threat to democracy itself.

“We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered,” Frum wrote.

Organizers said audience members each paid up to $100 to attend the debate although some resellers were asking several times the value on Friday. Aurea, the charitable foundation behind the event, says it supports public-policy organizations that, among other concepts, advance free markets and the protection of democratic values.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Slocan Valley to be ‘lit up’ with high-speed internet in 12 months

125 kilometres of fibre-optic cable to be laid from Nakusp to Playmore Junction

Nakusp’s new Caribou Society wants a say in management of animals

Community input is necessary for effective protection, say proponents

Paramedics union raises alarm over spike in out-of-service ambulances

Staffing shortages affecting service levels in Kootenays

Update: Car located in Pend d’Oreille River, teenagers remain missing

A fundraiser has been set up at Kootenay Savings in Fruitvale to help support the family

Two missing in Pend d’Oreille crash

A 15-year-old male and 18-year-old female both from Fruitvale are missing and presumed deceased

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

Search and rescue team helicopters injured climber from B.C. provincial park

A 30-year-old woman suffered a suspected lower-limb fracture in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Trudeau in Vancouver to support Tamara Taggart at Liberal nomination event

The former broadcaster is seeking the nomination for the Vancouver Kingsway riding

Trudeau calls May 6 byelection for B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith

The riding opened up when Sheila Malcolmson resigned in January

B.C. VIEWS: The hijacking of our education system gathers speed

Children taught to strike and shout fringe far-left demands

Judges on Twitter? Ethical guidance for those on the bench under review

Canadian judges involvement in community life are among issues under review

Most Read