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

Alberta was crowned champions in Wheelchair Basketball at Canada Winter Games

Ontario won silver while Quebec took home the bronze medal

Let the Games begin!

Team Alberta takes home gold and silver in speed skating on day one

WATCH: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

Athletes’ medals unveiled at the official kick-off of 2019 Canada Winter Games

Medals depict Central Alberta landscape and pay tribute to First Nations

Fashion Fridays: Must have wardrobe basics

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Child advocacy centre raising funds through Dream Home Lottery

The child advocacy centre in Red Deer uses its resources to help kids all over Central Alberta

Trudeau tells Canadians to listen to clerk in SNC-Lavalin matter

Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick delivered a blunt assessment at the House of Commons justice

Mueller report looming, new attorney general in hot seat

Robert Mueller is required to produce a confidential report to pursue or decline prosecutions

B.C. woman shares story of abuse with church officials ahead of Vatican summit

Leona Huggins was the only Canadian in the gathering ahead of a historic summit at the Vatican

Sylvan Lake’s Megan Cressey misses Freestyle Skiing Big Air podium

Alberta’s Jake Sandstorm captured silver in the men Freestyle Skiing Big Air contest

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Poll: More voters believe Canada doing worse under Trudeau government

22 per cent believed the country is doing better and 27 per cent said things are the same

Most Read