Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ann Coulter's narrow escape

Even when Ann Coulter delivers a speech, she's still a free speech martyr.

Fresh from a dismally organized event in Ottawa that never took place, which the Usual Suspects pounced upon as an example of the suppression of free speech in Canuckistan™, the indefatigable supporter of "local fascism" proceeded to Calgary and duly delivered her stand-up routine before 900 rapt and adoring fans in the land of the free. Apparently she had quite a good time there, too, even if about forty protesters gathered outside.

Just a handful of police officers and security guards stood watch, silently. Only when a few protesters, during Ms. Coulter's speech, began kicking at glass doors and banging on the windows did police intervene. It lasted just a few minutes. "We asked them to go home," one officer explained. And, he said, they did.

Yet could our delicate lass have remained dissatisfied? Her speech went off without a hitch in friendly territory, but something was missing. Why, that was it! No threats. No persecution. No phantom mobs of "thousands of rioting liberals." Was she losing her touch, failing to provoke the gentle Canuckistanis? Had she jumped the shark?

To the rescue, if not literally: Rick Benoit, Vice President of Executive Protection, VP Protection, Inc., who wrote a letter that, in the by-now-familiar manner, found its way into the National Post. The Usual Suspects are already all over it, flapping their hands in rage and frustration. Nothing happened to Ann Coulter in Calgary! But it coulda!

Here are a few extracts from the letter(some emphases added) to give the flavour, and a few comments of my own.

On March 20, 2010 I was hired as part of a Protective Detail team of 4, for IFPS Canada’s free speech event at the University of Calgary. This event came on the heels of a similar event at Ottawa University, an event that was cancelled due to lack of safe conduct for the main speaker Ann Coulter.

Whoa, stop right there. Put a stake though that meme. The Ottawa event wasn't canceled because two hundred protesters outside the building were chanting. It was canceled because the folks who organized it had ordered up a room with a seating capacity of four hundred and more than a thousand people, many who had not pre-registered as requested, showed up to hear her. Here is an account of the alleged mob scene, from an impeccable source.

But Benoit was, after all, not in Ottawa, but in Calgary. There he soon became uneasy:

[P]retty much every request we made was graciously accommodated. It was when we started discussing the "what if" scenarios of the evening program that really gave insight as to what we were going to be up against.

"What if" can be a sober exercise of the precautionary principle, but it can get out of hand.

It was explained to us in no uncertain terms, that Campus Security personnel could not and would not, remove any unruly patrons or spectators from the event unless they displayed obvious signs of violent behaviour - holding a chair over one’s head threatening to throw it was simply not enough...

Read more generously, heckling might be permitted, but overt violence would be dealt with by Campus Security, which had actually been beefed up for the event. This was a university campus--in Calgary. Controversial speakers are hardly unknown there. But Rick mistook the place for an airport:

[T]he next obvious line of questioning asked by us was regarding the "screening process" for entrants coming into the hall. What did they have in place? Would they be conducting bag searches, pat downs, wanding the individuals for weapons search? We were looked at with incredulous faces....

Add one more.

To make matters worse were [sic] told that if any of our people laid a hand on anyone at the event, for any reason, we would be charged and face criminal prosecution.

It was clear to us, from the way the message was relayed, that
the directive was coming from a much greater power than that of those who were delivering the message; Senior Police Officials, Senior Campus Officials, or maybe even Senior Politicians... No one really knew quite where the message was coming from but the end result was clear - hands off at any cost or face criminal prosecution should you challenge the directive.

Very mysterious. Nice tinfoil uniform, by the way.

[A]bout 50 “battle ready” protesters...had surrounded our vehicles circling about them plotting and planning their mode of attack for when we should return to our SUVs.

And doing so within earshot. The plan was, no doubt, to chant the "principals" to death.

The Calgary Police and the Campus Security personnel refused to move the protestors away from our vehicles.

The enemy! You're all the enemy!

I submit that by planning an attack against us and surrounding our vehicles, violence was imminent and the Calgary Police and Campus Security should have cleared our vehicles, so that we could make safe passage. However they did not, so we decided to move the principals (all of them), into a safe room to formulate a better plan than the one that was given to us. This tactic worked well because during the wait of our deliberation, most of the protesters grew bored and left the vicinity of the vehicles. That being the case, our Protective Detail decided the best course of action was to move all the principals to the vehicles (where we had left them upon arrival), by a swift and direct path thus avoiding the previously suggested splitting up of principals and as well the secondary location.

Or, alternatively, a few peaceful if likely noisy demonstrators, already sussed out by the police and campus security, were exercising their rights to free expression. Rick is a little short on detail here. There would appear, for example, to have been no damage to the vehicles, or we would surely have heard. And moving the "principals" into a room for a discussion is quickly repackaged as a "tactic" against ultraviolent demonstrators who get bored easily.

When we made our exit, only a handful of protestors remained. Calgary Police and Campus Security personnel stood on a nearby hill and watched as we exited the building and entered into our vehicles. We were able to drive away without any altercation.

Close call, though, eh?

The officers on the ground were governed by politics; told not to get involved, unless acts of violence and or property damage were actually witnessed.

Because otherwise no laws were being broken?

It would take a master parodist indeed to surpass this. Meanwhile, I predict that Coulter will now claim two excellent reasons for hating Canada: a) they shut her down, and b) they didn't, but they might have.

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