The Peter Makes Himself a Martyr


Anti-gay bigot extraordinaire Peter LaBarbera is making a bid for martyrdom, getting himself arrested at the University of Regina in Canada for handing out anti-gay literature. He had previously been briefly detained while crossing the border, but was allowed to enter to give a lecture.

U.S. anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera and a Saskatchewan man were arrested on the University of Regina campus on Monday and will be charged with mischief, police said.

LaBarbera, who is with a group called Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, and Bill Whatcott were distributing anti-gay literature on the campus.

Before their arrival, the university issued a news release saying the pair would be monitored to ensure they did not engage in any activity that would promote hatred.

At one point, with news cameras rolling, an unidentified university official approached Whatcott, 46, and LaBarbera, 51, and asked them to leave. During that encounter, Whatcott said he had attempted to get permission to set up an information table and, since he was denied, proceeded to set up a table anyway.

They knew they were going to be arrested and I think he did it specifically for that purpose. There’s a lot of money to be made on the Christian rubber chicken circuit as a martyr. Still, I have a serious problem with the arrest. I am on record as being strongly against hate speech laws and I have just as much of a problem with the Canadian government using vague criminal charges like “mischief” as I am American law enforcement arrested people for “disorderly conduct” — whatever the hell either of those things might be.

I am a passionate activist for LGBT equality but I’m also a passionate advocate for freedom of speech and I see no contradiction between those things. And I’m not alone. Christopher Hitchens, whose birthday would have been last week, gave what I think may be his finest speech in a debate over Canada’s hate speech laws.

Comments

  1. John Pieret says

    I am a passionate activist for LGBT equality but I’m also a passionate advocate for freedom of speech and I see no contradiction between those things.

    Nor should you.

    But it will be amusing to hear the bigots proclaim that the “exceptional” US is becoming a fascist state because Canadians arrest troublesome bigots.

  2. Nick Gotts says

    I am a passionate activist for LGBT equality but I’m also a passionate advocate for freedom of speech and I see no contradiction between those things.

    Just because you don’t see one, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. If American law had denied Frazier Glenn Cross the freedom of speech to advocate genocide against Jews, his victims might still be alive. Without the constant barrage of hate speech against LGBT people, many victims of hate crimes against them might still be alive, and many more people might feel able to live their lives without fear. In my book, the right not to be targeted and terrorised by bigots trumps the right to free speech.

  3. cptdoom says

    Regarding the arrest, from reports I’ve read Petey and his buddy tried to set up a table from which to distribute their materials, and the university has explicitly not given permission for that. Security informed the men they could not do so, and they went ahead and did it. This seems more like a case of trespass then merely hate speech, so I’m going to enjoy his “martyrdom” as much as possible.

  4. says

    Now, look, Ed, you know darn well that if you don’t have your table license in Canada, and you set it up anyway, well then darn tootin’ the RCMP is gonna arrest you. Canucks don’t take tablin’ lightly. Not like Americans, who confuse freedom with rampant, unregulatedtablin! “Only a good man with a table can stop a bad man with a table”. Why, logic like that just means everyone needs a table just to protect themselves from all the other people with tables. And where does that end but in a country covered in tables! And furthermore…

  5. doublereed says

    If American law had denied Frazier Glenn Cross the freedom of speech to advocate genocide against Jews, his victims might still be alive. Without the constant barrage of hate speech against LGBT people, many victims of hate crimes against them might still be alive, and many more people might feel able to live their lives without fear.

    Please explain how you came to this conclusion. Because I don’t see it.

  6. eric says

    If American law had denied Frazier Glenn Cross the freedom of speech to advocate genocide against Jews, his victims might still be alive. Without the constant barrage of hate speech against LGBT people, many victims of hate crimes against them might still be alive

    Without a broad first amendment, IMO many more LGBT people would be victims of both individual AND state violence, because its that broad first amendment right that allowed activists to defend gay rights publicly in the first place. Without the ability to speak out against the status quo, we’d still have laws criminalizing various bedroom activities. Many more preachers would be speaking hate and there would be no effective public respons to such hatred, because (again, without a broad first amendment) pro-gay arguments would likely be deemed inciteful or against the public order or whatever.

    Do not kid yourself in to thinking that if we gave the US government a greater power to restrict “bad” speech, that they would interpret “bad” the way you interpret it. Historically, “bad speech” has been interpreted as speech that attacks the status quo. And up until the 1970s, the status quo was pretty viciously anti-gay. “Bad speech” has not historically been interpreted as speech that attacks liberal values of equality. So yes, some free speech has incited violence against gays (and other minorities). But I think free speech is an overall net positive for minority rights. Less violence is done against minorities now than in the past, in part because the majority is not allowed to decide what counts as legal speech and what doesn’t.

  7. Chiroptera says

    Did LaBarbera suffer any? ‘Cause regardless of whether one agrees with his arrest, I would think that the title of martyr should include some significant suffering for the cause.

  8. Chiroptera says

    Modusoperandi, #4:

    If handing out pamphlets is outlawed, then only outlaws will hand out pamphlets.

  9. says

    I think arresting him was likely overkill, but he was on campus and told he could not do what he was doing. The university is free to take action. I would have probably just walked him off of campus. I am not sure how well mischief actually fits here, but mischief is not necessarily some complete catch all law, and should not be confused with the common dictionary definition, mischief in Canadian law is concerned with issues of another person’s property.

    Mischief
    430. (1) Every one commits mischief who wilfully

    (a) destroys or damages property;
    (b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;
    (c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or
    (d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

  10. cptdoom says

    Did LaBarbera suffer any? ‘Cause regardless of whether one agrees with his arrest, I would think that the title of martyr should include some significant suffering for the cause.

    Well, according to his own description, he was forced to spend an entire night in jail. Then, to further his humiliation, the jail took away his personal possessions and would not given him a Bible. – he was actually treated like any other criminal, which he seemed to find strange (no matter what the rationale for the arrest, if one is arrested, one should expect to be treated like someone who is, I don’t know, under arrest). Then, because he’d been previously warned by the border patrol when he entered the country, they made him have a second whole hearing before letting him leave the country. It really puts that weakling Martin Luther King, Jr. to shame, doesn’t it?

  11. raven says

    Why did the Canadians even let him cross? He is not a Canadian citizen and not granted the rights of a Canadian citizen.

    Not so long ago they weren’t let people convicted of DUI, drunk driving in. Even if the conviction was 30 years ago.

    For that matter, why would the USA let Jim Garrow in? He is a kooky wacko who has made violent threats against Obama, the US president.

    .

  12. Trebuchet says

    @12, Raven: I was going to bring up Garrow, but you beat me to it. I know he lives there, but is he a Canadian citizen?

  13. raven says

    @12, Raven: I was going to bring up Garrow, but you beat me to it. I know he lives there, but is he a Canadian citizen?

    Far as I know he is a Canadian citizen. He has no history of ever even being in the USA and a long history in Canada, much of it pretty dodgy. Teaching certificate revoked, dubious failed business ventures, wild claims that no one can confirm, and so on.

    politicsUSA:

    Because they have no actual justification for Obama’s removal (and eventual execution) they must fabricate heinous misdeeds for which to punish him – like attacking America with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that would result in “the deaths of ninety percent of the population of the United States of America.”

    This story is the brainchild of Jim Garrow and Erik Rush.

    Yes, Jim Garrow and Erik Rush say Obama should be stood against wall and shot – for something that exists only in their own twisted imaginations.

    I don’t see why we should let Canadian conpeople and homicial kooks into the USA. We have more than enough of those already. We don’t need any more.

    BTW, death threats are felonies under US law. It’s a form of terrorism.

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    Those damn foreigners put a white Christian American male in a dungeon and the Kenyan Muslim Communist didn’t immediately send in the Marines to get him out?!?

    No wonder Putin feels like he can march his jackboots all over our Ukraine!!!1!

  15. says

    raven “Why did the Canadians even let him cross? He is not a Canadian citizen and not granted the rights of a Canadian citizen.”
    At the time they didn’t know he was going to set up a table. Had they known…

  16. weatherwax says

    #2 Gotts: “If American law had denied Frazier Glenn Cross the freedom of speech to advocate genocide against Jews, his victims might still be alive.”

    A huge assumption. Banning the speech doesn’t discourage ‘bad’ speech. It just drives it underground. Look at Germany. Has their very strict ban on fascist speech done anything to bring it under control?

    And in the internet age, these losers will still find each other. At least we get an idea of what their saying when they’re not afraid to say it publicly.

  17. Erk12 says

    As Travis and cptdoom pointed out, this arrest didn’t have to do with hate speech laws. He came on to university property (private property) to do something he was previously denied permission to do, then refused to leave when the university asked him. It would be the same as if he were to have set up a table in a mall to distribute his literature, the mall may be accessible by the public, but it’s not the same as a public park.

  18. Erk12 says

    @ raven #12

    “Why did the Canadians even let him cross? He is not a Canadian citizen and not granted the rights of a Canadian citizen.”

    As a non-citizen, he doesn’t have the right to enter Canada (Charter Section 6), so they didn’t have to let him in, that’s true. However, if you meant that more broadly, you should know most Charter Rights (and specifically Sections 2, and 7-10 as well as others) are specifically worded so that they apply to apply to “Everyone”.

  19. says

    Erk12 “However, if you meant that more broadly, you should know most Charter Rights (and specifically Sections 2, and 7-10 as well as others) are specifically worded so that they apply to apply to “Everyone”.”
    Even the Right to Not Shave During the Playoffs. True story.

  20. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Nick Gotts

    . If American law had denied Frazier Glenn Cross the freedom of speech to advocate genocide against Jews, his victims might still be alive. Without the constant barrage of hate speech against LGBT people, many victims of hate crimes against them might still be alive, and many more people might feel able to live their lives without fear.

    Bullshit.

    I suggest you watch (again) that video linked by Ed. As Hitchens says, as soon as you realize that the main proponents and benefactors of hate speech laws are also the biggest purveyors of hate, you will realize your error.

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