Free speech on the line

TORONTO - It’s just not every day you hear someone openly talking about seizing control of institutions and changing the country.


But to fight “islamophobia” and “white supremacy” in a country where six innocent Muslim men were massacred in a mosque, social justice activist Syed Hassan raged to protesters at Saturday’s anti-Trump protest at the U.S. Consulate on University Ave. about marshalling a movement to “become the enemy” by “sowing terror.”

This is a time when Canada’s free speech is both on display and being tested.

As Hassan was disparaging Canada and seemingly trying to light a fuse for some sort of revolution, professional agitator Eric Brazau was nearby protesting Shariah law and other things while defying police orders not to display a placard stating “Canadians against Islamization.”

Who got arrested? Brazau.

Toronto Police offered assurances that Brazau was only detained — not charged — for “his own safety.”

Yet it’s Hassan who feels he and fellow Muslims are in danger.

“This way of life is Islamophobia,” the 32-year-old raved. “This way of life, the one that killed our six loved ones, needs armed forces whose work is death.”

Unlike what happened to Brazau, Hassan didn’t have a half dozen police warning him to cease and desist — not even when Hassan’s passionate verbal manifesto descended into bizarre verbal threats.

Turns out only one of these men had free speech on this day.

Whipped into a frenzy behind the microphone, Hassan railed: “Let’s gather ... in the hundreds of thousands to form organizations and movements, that will exert power and reshape our society ... We must break down the borders that keep out migrants and refugees. We must tear down the prisons and the detention centres.

“We will seize the farms and the factories. We must become the enemies, so that in this city everyone can live with food, shelter, dignity.”

The crowd was cheering just as loudly as they did for Black Lives Matter co-founder Yusra Khogali when she made the offensive claim that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a terrorist and white supremacist.

“We must become the enemies that sow terror in their hearts so that laws like C-51 shrivel away,” yelled Hassan. “We must celebrate our way of life, what they called barbaric cultural practices on our streets and in our homes until their way of life dissipates under our feet.

“Let us become enemies. Let us organize. Let us win. We cannot wait. Freedom is calling.”

Unlike Brazau, he was not arrested. Ironically, Hassan’s freedom of speech — in a country he heaps disdain on — was in tact.

I know both men and find them interesting, engaging characters who push the envelope.

Brazau’s the guy who demonstrated outside of Toronto Police Sgt. Ryan Russell’s funeral — holding up a sign that said “No Police State — electricians die, soldiers die, people die.” Classless, but free speech on display. Sort of. He was arrested there, too.

Libyan born Hassan, who says his family is from Pakistan, was arrested at the G20 in 2010 and while jailed for allegedly being a protest “ringleader,” his charges were eventually dropped.

He said in an interview Tuesday “I’m not seizing anything” and described what he is saying as “poetry” and “symbolic” statements needed to highlight “a sense of fear” in “black and brown communities and racialized people — people who are Muslim.”

But as I told him, he’s scaring people by talking about becoming an enemy and changing the country.

“I am talking about institutions, not talking about people,” said Hassan. “The part that should scare you is there have been centuries of people who have been marginalized, oppressed and mass murdered.”

He screamed Saturday: “This murderous way of life is white supremacy.”

Easy for him to say. But as Brazau knows, not so easy to counter.

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