Library’s insistence that police be invited to speak spells end of popular film and discussion series

After 4+ years of running the Radical Imagination Film and Discussion Series at the Central Branch Library in Halifax I have been informed today that my programming is no longer welcome. 

The reason? Two films that I had planned to show in the fall of 2019 (“Profiled” and “Trouble 19: ACAB”) deal directly with issues of racial profiling, police violence, and alternatives to policing. I was informed by the programming manager at the library that that my programming was not welcome unless I was willing to have a representative of the Halifax Police Department as a featured speaker at these events . 

All this was framed in the predictable language of “complexity” and “civil discourse” of course. When I pointed out that having police vet public events at the library seems a lot like censorship and that having police present as a formal part of the program would inhibit important community discussions about policing as an institution I was told simply that this was not censorship. 

When I pointed out that in over four years of programming (about issues including misogyny, climate crisis, decolonization, militant protest, direct action, pinkwashing, and much, much more) not once had library staff sought to intervene in my programming or insisted that I involve a representative from the “other side” I was simply ignored. 

When I asked what basis the library had for suddenly deciding that I was not able to manage a nuanced and open discussion about these issues without a police escort I was told that having a representative from the municipality and the police would enrich the discussion and give audience members an opportunity for “feedback.” 

I’m grateful for 4+ years of support from wonderful library staff and for the free use of library space, but I’ve done the work of putting the programming together, recruiting and paying speakers, paying film screening fees, doing the advertising, and more. That’s been a benefit to the library and the community. 

In the era of free speech wars I’ve been effectively deplatformed at the library for having the audacity to show two films about police violence and the connection between policing and dominant interests.

This post was originally published on Facebook. Republished with the author’s kind permission.  Alex Kashnabish is now looking for a new venue for the series.

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  1. Ridiculous. Would the library insist that a person giving a talk on climate change include a climate change denier? Would someone speaking about the benefits of immigration have to include an anti-immigration speaker? There is absolutely no justifiable reason for the library to insist on police participation in a session on racism in policing.

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