Activists plan protest outside upcoming Citadel-hosted Bannon speech


The city has approved a permit for activists to protest an upcoming speech by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to an Indivisible Charleston spokeswoman.

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 Pastor 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 it’s 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. 

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.”

click to enlarge
A flier being used on Facebook and official statements to promote a protest against Steve Bannon's Nov. 10 speech at the Citadel Republican Society's Patriot Dinner. - COURTESY OF INDIVISIBLE CHARLESTON

  • Courtesy of Indivisible Charleston
  • A flier being used on Facebook and official statements to promote a protest against Steve Bannon’s Nov. 10 speech at the Citadel Republican Society’s Patriot Dinner.

“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.”

The Citadel has not yet responded about the status of the groups’ campus protest permit 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. “Money will go to groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

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.

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