On Friday, the LGBT Center in New York City cancelled Brandon Straka’s #WalkAway town hall, which was to take place on March 28.
Now, let’s rewind a bit. Shortly after it was announced that Straka and his team had set up a #WalkAway town hall with the specific intent of engaging the LGBT community, a petition was started to get the event cancelled. Co-signed by Gordon Beeferman, Sharona Chava, and the Democratic Socialists of America NYC Queer Caucus, among others, the petition racked up a couple hundred signatures.
It states in part:
The speakers booked for March 28th’s Town Hall, Brandon Straka, Blaire White, Rob Smith, and Mike Harlow, espouse openly white supremacist, transphobic, xenophobic, and otherwise bigoted views that are dangerous to our communities…
The stated goal of “WalkAway” is to draw LGBTQI+ people to the right. However, as a cursory search of the speakers’ public statements shows, they are far-right provocateurs who share responsible for incitement to violence against trans people, black people, women, immigrants, Jews, and Muslims, and who publicly associate themselves with prominent, violent members of the “Alt Right” white nationalist movement.
The petition links to a Google doc containing tweets, pictures, and videos in which Straka and the panelists set to appear alongside him at the LGBT event make provocative statements, and appear with controversial people.
Straka can be seen in two photos with provocateur Milo Yiannopoulis. In a sampling of his tweets, Straka states that “white supremacy is not on the rise in America,” and that while transgenderism is real, “non-binary” is not. He is also shown appearing on “The Alex Jones Show.”
Panelist Blaire White, who is transgender, is seen in photos with Yiannopoulos and others making the “okay” hand sign that progressives have associated with the Alt-Right. White is also pictured in a tweet wearing a black facial mask, with the text: “Blaire Black, intersectional trans-feminist.”
Mike Harlow is shown posing with former CRTV host Gavin McInnes, who founded and later left the Proud Boys, a self-described “Western Chauvinist” group. In one tweet, Harlow jokingly compares Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to “a hooker.”
Some of the screenshots from a video in which Harlow talks about race are taken wildly out of context.
In its statement regarding the cancellation, the LGBT Center said in part:
We strongly oppose censorship and fully stand by our commitment to free speech, but as our space use policy states, we reserve the right to cancel any event that promotes discriminatory speech or bigotry; negatively impacts other groups or individuals that use The Center; or conflicts with, or interferes with, Center-sponsored or produced programming. It has become clear that this event would violate all of these important policies.
In recent days we have learned that certain of the panelists announced for this event have made repeated, well-documented past statements that violate our mission, values and the spirit of inclusiveness for all individuals and identities that is core to our work and who we are. Our space is a place of safety and refuge for those most vulnerable among us, and we will do everything in our power to protect that. Permitting this event to proceed would make many of our community members feel unsafe and, among other things, interfere with their ability to participate in other Center programming.
Panelist Rob Smith responded to the cancellation of the event:
Straka replied as well:
According to Straka, the LGBT Center didn’t even notify him that the event was cancelled, and has yet to return deposit money. Straka and his team are currently scrambling to find a venue for the now cancelled event.