British Columbia

RCMP called in after pushing and shoving breaks out at controversial UBC event

The event included controversial speaker Mark Hecht, who wrote an anti-immigrant op-ed for the Vancouver Sun last month.

UBC says RCMP were called in due to concern for safety and security

Campus security called police when things started to escalate after protesters started banging hard on windows, threatening to break them, an event organizer said. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

RCMP were called in as tensions rose outside a controversial event at the University of British Columbia Wednesday night. 

The event organized by student-led group Students for Freedom of Expression invited two controversial speakers to attend. One of them was Mark Hecht, who wrote a highly-criticized anti-immigrant op-ed for the Vancouver Sun last month. 

The other speaker was Ricardo Duchesne who has been critical of multiculturalism and Canada's immigration policies. 

But the event was met by dozens of protesters upset over the university's decision to give a platform to what they say is far-right hate speech.

RCMP were called in over concerns about safety outside a controversial event at the University of British Columbia. 0:35

"We did get a call from campus security that some of the people demonstrating and protesting were banging on the windows," said Const. Kevin Ray with UBC RCMP. "There was some pushing and shoving." 

He says campus security called police when things began to escalate. 

"When everyone went inside, security thought it was possible that they would smash the windows with their banging," said Nicholas Kosovic, founder of the group that organized the event. "Some of the attendees were frightened." 

Organizers say 80 people attended the event.

But the group behind the protest, Students Against Bigotry, says the protest was non-violent and attendees were the ones being aggressive.

"Despite Campus Security ensuring that attendees were able to access the front door, several chose to remain outside to try to film, intimidate, provoke, and attack protesters," reads a statement from the group. 

'Lawful expression of ideas'

In an email to CBC News, vice-president of academic Andrew Szeri confirmed RCMP had to get involved due to safety and security concerns.

In a statement released last month, the university defended its decision to go ahead with the event.

"Discussion and debate cannot occur without the free and lawful expression of ideas, even those we may fundamentally disagree with, find distasteful or even repugnant," read the statement. 

RCMP say no one was hurt and no arrests were made. Approximately 10 officers responded to the call and had to stay in place until the event was over, Ray added.

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