Protesters delay debate involving ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon

Police intervened in Toronto as chanting protesters delayedthe start of a debate featuring Steve Bannon

Police were forced to intervene as chanting protesters delayed the start of a Toronto debate featuring Steve Bannon, the former strategist who helped Donald Trump win the White House.

Video posted on social media showed officers outside the downtown venue using batons to hold back the crowd, and police tweeted that there had been “a number of arrests.”

Debate organizers explained the roughly half-hour delay by saying they anticipated protests and wanted to ensure everyone is safe.

Bannon has now been introduced as he defends political populism against conservative commentator David Frum.

Critics, who accuse Bannon of being a white supremacist, wanted the debate scrapped.

RELATED: Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon to defend populism at Toronto event

While the 90-minute event at a downtown auditorium was sold out, the theatre was barely half full at the scheduled start time.

To ensure the debate went ahead, albeit late, members of the public were seated even after it began.

Protesters, some holding signs deploring racism, yelled “Shame on you!” and “Nazi!” as people tried to get in, reducing one woman on her way into the debate to tears.

“We are going to work diligently as a group to make sure this is a safe evening,” said Rudyard Griffiths, the chairman and moderator of the debate. “That is going to require us to wait a little bit.”

The debate was slated to play out just ahead of the fiercely contested midterm congressional elections in the United States on Nov. 6. Organizers said about 2,700 people paid to attend, while several thousand more watched via livestream.

The proposition the two men were set to debate, with Bannon in favour and Frum opposed, was: “The future of western politics is populist, not liberal.”

Bannon, 64, former executive chairman of right-wing Breitbart News, helped Trump win the 2016 presidential election and was White House chief strategist for eight months until August 2017. The relationship soured after the president suggested Bannon had “lost his mind” for reportedly branding Trump’s son “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Bannon later walked back his comments but left his post at Breitbart in January.

Some critics have branded him as a racist and anti-Semite, epithets he has rejected.

RELATED: Trump removes Bannon from National Security Council

Friday’s event — part of the decade-old Munk Debates — was announced just days after Bannon was dropped from the speakers list at this month’s New Yorker Festival after an intense backlash and threats of a boycott by other guests. Critics in Canada also opposed allowing him to air his views on the grounds that he fuels hatred against disadvantaged groups.

Despite the blow-back, Griffiths stressed what he called the importance of allowing vigorous discussion of hot topics to allow the public to make up its own mind.

“Civil and substantive public debate of the big issues of our time helps all of us better understand the challenges we face as a society and what, if anything, can be done to resolve them,” Griffiths said.

Frum, 58, a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, is a former speechwriter for ex-U.S. president George W. Bush. The Canadian-American is also the author of the recent book “Trumpocracy,” which sharply criticizes the current American president as a threat to democracy itself.

“We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered,” Frum wrote.

Organizers said audience members each paid up to $100 to attend the debate although some resellers were asking several times the value on Friday. Aurea, the charitable foundation behind the event, says it supports public-policy organizations that, among other concepts, advance free markets and the protection of democratic values.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Two Okanagan players join Team Canada for Womens U18 World Championships

Anne Cherkowski and Sarah Paul will join the womens World Juniors team Dec. 26

WATCH: ‘Stubborn’ fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

The building, which lit up in flames around 2 a.m., was an infamous spot to Big White locals

Warriors looking for Teddy, hoping for win

West Kelowna hosts their annual Teddy Bear Toss fundraiser Saturday night

Price for one-bedroom rentals in Kelowna jumped 10.8% from October to November

Out of 34 Canadian cities, report said Kelowna had highest monthly rent increase

Rockets drop second straight, conclude 6-game road trip Saturday in Moose Jaw

Kelowna fell short against the Regina Pats 4-3 Friday night

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Old Christmas card has ties to Summerland agriculture

Card was sent by former director of Summerland Research Station

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

Frosty will have to pay rent to stay on Okanagan sidewalk next Christmas

Vernon Teach and Learn allowed to keep Frosty up, but will need a permit come January 1

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Conservation officers on the hunt for North Okanagan moose poachers

Officers execute search warrant Friday morning, investigation continues

UPDATE: Highway 1 reopens after vehicle incident near Boston Bar

Initial reports of a jack-knifed semi truck had closed both directions of the highway

Kootnekoff: Accommodating religious celebrations

Employers must be mindful that not everyone celebrates holidays which are days off

Most Read