Westward Independent

Protest or Harassment? The Revolve Cowichan Controversy

by Westward Independent
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On June 4th, 2023, a local advocacy group called Revolve Cowichan posted an urgent call on their Facebook page, urging supporters to protest an event they labelled as transphobic and homophobic.

From Revolve Cowichan’s Facebook page, calling for protest.

The event, titled “Pushing Pride: When Activism Conflicts with Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, and the Safeguarding of Kids,” was set to take place at the community center.

Revolve Cowichan encouraged their followers to inundate the community center with phone calls and emails, providing staff contact information to apply pressure. Their message was clear: they intended to prevent the event from happening and urged supporters, “If you consider yourself an ally, this is your time to stand up.”

The basis for their protest was their belief that the speaker, Meghan Murphy, would likely express transphobic views during her talk scheduled for June 8th. Revolve Cowichan’s statement declared, “We cannot support an event that will actively cause harm to transgender and gender non-conforming people.” They also called on the community to help stop the event from taking place in “our community safe spaces.”

Murphy’s event, a donation-based gathering, was held in a private room within the community center. This raises critical questions: Is Revolve Cowichan policing speech, or are they asserting that community spaces should only host events they personally endorse?

Is it justifiable to pressure community center staff by bombarding them with calls and emails as advised by the protest documents? Is it fair to attempt to cancel an event that was paid for, organized, and approved by the community center? Should assumptions about potential speech be grounds for preventing someone from speaking? Does every event need unanimous community approval to be hosted in a public space?

“We need you to call them on repeat – Prevent people from setting up” – Revolve Cowichan

Regardless of the event’s content, is it ethical to incite community members to harass, intimidate, bully, and shame individuals or groups from exercising their right to free speech and assembly? According to Revolve Cowichan, it appears they believe this approach is justified.

Amid the emotionally charged exchanges on Revolve Cowichan’s Facebook post—where one faction supported policing the event while another defended the right to speak—we decided to attend the protest ourselves to gain a firsthand understanding. The online debate was rife with hate, name-calling, slander, and petty bickering from both sides. Supporters of the protest wielded slogans like “No Space for Hate” and “Let Love Win,” which stood in stark contrast to the hostility and vitriol evident in their tactics. We aimed to understand why those advocating for love and peace would simultaneously endorse bullying, cancellation, and harassment of another group. This juxtaposition of love and hate prompted us to seek clarity on the mixed messages.

On June 8th, we arrived at the community center to observe the protest setup. The protesters adorned the walls with banners, painted the sidewalk with chalk slogans and quotes, and prepared prebuilt banners, posters, juice boxes, horns, and even bubbles. Among the crowd, we noticed our local MP, Alistair McGregor, seemingly assisting with the setup. When we asked him why he was there, he replied that he was there to support people he loved. However, our presence quickly drew attention.

When our reporter identified himself as being from The Westward Independent, a protester immediately confronted him, attempting to provoke a physical altercation. Despite trying to defuse the situation with laughter and confusion, the tension escalated as a protester aggressively shoved a loud horn in our reporter’s face. The situation deteriorated rapidly from there.

Protesters surrounded our reporter, shouting slogans like “We need the noise up here” and “You don’t belong here.” Kristi Koons, the event organizer and leader of Revolve Cowichan, repeatedly intervened, offering juice to protesters while others used horns, umbrellas, and banners to obstruct media access. The atmosphere became increasingly hostile, with several individuals being stabbed with umbrellas, spat upon, and physically assaulted.

Despite Revolve Cowichan later issuing a statement claiming it was a peaceful protest, the RCMP received reports of assault and violence. They are currently investigating and reviewing camera footage from the event.

During the event, we encountered friends and several elected officials who appeared confused about its purpose. Some believed it was a fun gathering to celebrate pride and community, while others thought it aimed to shut down and cancel speech they disliked. We later discovered that Revolve Cowichan had posted two events: one calling for the cancellation of Meghan Murphy and another billed as a ‘Protest Party’ to uplift queer joy and community care. Both events were scheduled for the same time, date, and location.

Was this done deliberately? Were these two events—one promoting bullying, harassment, and cancellation, and the other uplifting joy—set for the same date to confuse the public? Was this an error or a strategic move to gather more support by appealing to both sides? Was it disingenuous? Revolve Cowichan claimed 200 people attended, but our video review counted around 75 individuals. Was this also an error, or an attempt to mislead the public about the support and agenda being promoted?

In the end, despite our attempts to engage with the protesters to understand their motives, the organizers swiftly intervened to prevent any discourse. This seemed intentional, as their original event calling for Meghan Murphy’s cancellation stated, “We recommend not engaging with event attendees or police officers.” Why the secrecy? Why muzzle the attendees? Why two events?

We contacted Revolve Cowichan for further explanation, but they did not respond by the time of publication. Video of the event, which has reached over 70,000 views across numerous platforms, can be found via coap.ca or x.com/ContactWwind

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