Antifa took a public-relations hit this week in Canada after activists blocked the path of an elderly woman using a walker as she tried to enter an Ontario college for a talk featuring a conservative politician.
The “anti-fascist” protest group was widely denounced over a viral video showing three masked protesters standing in the woman’s way Sunday as she slowly tried to cross the street, accompanied by her elderly husband, while the activists shouted, “Nazi scum! Off our streets!”
The event held at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, featured People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, a Member of Parliament, who appeared with U.S. conservative YouTube host Dave Rubin.
Although antifa defenders described the episode as a few bad apples ruining it for the otherwise peaceful protesters — and blasted those using the video for “propaganda” purposes — the episode spurred an antifa backlash, judging by the outraged reaction in the media and social media.
“Antifa’s granny-bullying is another hit to the group’s crumbling public façade,” said the Monday headline on a column in the Post Millennial of Quebec.
David Turkoski, a martial-arts instructor in Brantford, Ontario, later identified the white-haired woman as his mother and posted a video on Twitter with her response to the protest.
“Free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and can never — and will never — be denied,” said the woman, identified by the CBC as 81-year-old Dorothy Marston.
Mr. Bernier retweeted the video and thanked the woman for “standing up for free speech!”
“We need courageous people like you if we are to keep our country STRONG and FREE,” said Mr. Bernier, who blasted the “Antifa thugs.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Rubin praised “the lovely woman who antifa tried to stop from attending my event with @MaximeBernier on Sunday. I now proclaim her to be Canada’s Grandma,” adding that the video had received 7 million views.
Former Canadian Ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici tweeted, “I don’t support targeted party, but these thugs have no idea what real fascism is.”
In a Monday op-ed, Don Henderson of Hamilton said he attended the event with his mother, but that a black-masked activist “decided to scream as loudly as possible in her ear that she was a Nazi.”
He said the irony of the incident was that his grandfather fought Nazis during World War II in England, Italy, France and Germany, “unlike these misguided youth.”
“I’m not a Nazi. My family gave everything to stop them and I would do the same,” Mr. Henderson said. “If you need to wear a mask when you assault people, who exactly are you?”
Kojo Damptey, program manager for the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, told the CBC that he disagreed with harassing “old folks and people that have disabilities,” but that the focus on the elderly couple was a “distraction.”
He added, “If they weren’t allowed to speak at Mohawk, that wouldn’t have happened.”
Four people were arrested for “breach of the peace” at the Mohawk College event, although Hamilton police said more could be arrested as the department reviews video from the protest, according to the CBC.