Permits have been submitted for activists to protest an upcoming speech by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to multiple individuals involved in the planning.
Groups such as The Coalition: People United To Take Back Our Community, the local National Action Network, Greater Columbia Action Together, Indivisible Charleston, and Indivisible Midlands will sponsor the protest under the direction of Coalition co-founder Thomas Dixon.
“Steve Bannon represents a whole lot of ugliness in the world right now,” said Indivisible Charleston spokeswoman Vanessa A. Moody-Laird. “Historically, Charleston has found its strength in embracing all the beautiful people here, not dividing them. He’s very much a divisive character.”
Bannon will be speaking at the student-led Republican Society’s annual Patriot Dinner on Nov. 10 at the school’s alumni center. He became a lightning rod for controversy when he accepted the job of chief executive of Donald Trump’s campaign in August 2016. Worries about the alt-right, white-supremacist stances of Breitbart News, the website he ran before joining the campaign, continue to plague the White House even after Bannon’s departure this August.
[content-2] In October, Buzzfeed News published an exposé detailing the extent to which Breitbart News openly courted white nationalists and supremacists. In one e-mail, former Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos told Devin Saucier, an editor for the white nationalist magazine American Renaissance, that Bannon was “sympathetic to much of it.”
“We all have free speech, but we do not have freedom from the consequences of our speech,” Moody-Laird said. “As taxpayers, we all have every right to protest and voice our concern about his presence on a public campus.”
Dixon submitted a permit request to the city but was told to go through the Citadel instead. On Thursday Nov. 2, he met with state Rep. William Gilliard and Citadel president Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa.
“I got the paperwork from Citadel on Thursday and was able to get it back to them on Friday, so we do have approval, technically,” Dixon said.
Dixon said that the rally, a term her prefers given that “protest is antagonistic,” is not meant to curtail Bannon’s free speech.
“Bannon can come, I don’t care,” Dixon said. “Free speech also dictates that we don’t have to say it’s all right.”
The Citadel has not yet verified the status of the groups’ request.
Reverend Jeremy Rutledge of the Circular Congregational Church told the City Paper that several community members are planning a “creative protest” based on a German town’s response to a neo-Nazi march in 2014.
“We’re giving donations for every carload of people who arrive to see Bannon,” Rutledge said.
Controversial speakers have caused a stir on Charleston’s streets in the past. Black Lives Matter organizer Muhiyidin d’Baha was arrested during a counter-protest of Bree Newsome’s February lecture at the College of Charleston after trying to tear down a protester’s Confederate rebel flag. When asked how CofC would handle a speaker like Bannon, a spokesman declined to weigh in.
“Student Affairs will consider each request on a case-by-case basis,” said CofC spokesperson Mike Robertson. Love Best of Charleston? Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
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