In his second public criticism of local media outlets, Victoria councillor Ben Isitt has stated that the press is spreading a false narrative about the protests at the Legislature on Tuesday.
A blog post shared by Isitt on Wednesday compares the demonstrations of Indigenous youth and allies in Victoria to the likes of historical civil disobedience movements like those of Spartacus, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, and Rosa Parks.
Isitt, who holds PhDs in law and history, argued that institutions tied to colonialism and capitalism are defending the status quo in their coverage of the protests.
“Here in Lekwungen territory today, the corporate media is frantically spinning the non-violent blockade of the legislature as some kind of ‘violent protest’, a predictable frame that has accompanied nearly every protest of any significance since at least the 1950s,” writes Isitt.
“Similar false narratives are being propagated by mouthpieces of the oil bosses across Turtle Island in response to local manifestations of the social movement.”
This denouncement of the press comes after hundreds of protesters supporting the Wet’suwet’en people in opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline construction gathered at the Legislature on Tuesday.
Over the course of the day, protestors blocked all 16 entrances to the Legislature barring politicians, parliament staff, and reporters from entering the building ahead of the scheduled Throne speech.
During the chaos of the day’s events, there have been allegations of people being assaulted and injured.
While protesters have vehemently denied these allegations, reiterating that it was a peaceful protest and organizers instructed everyone to keep their hands to themselves, Victoria Police are investigating potential cases of assault and asking witnesses and victims to come forward.
Councillor Ben Isitt took to Twitter on Tuesday night to denounce VicPD, stating that allegations of assault are “hogwash designed to discredit Indigenous youth and their supporters”.
VicPD Chief Del Manak responded to this tweet, calling Isitt’s comments “off base and disrespectful”.
At a press conference on Wednesday, BC Premier John Horgan contended that while peaceful dissent must be protected as an institution of democracy, he does not condone pushing, shoving, and blocking people from going to work.
When asked about his view on Isitt, Premier Horgan had little to say.
“My thoughts on that man are not printable. I spoke with mayor Lisa Helps and I do not view city council in Victoria as a mirror image of him.”
This is not the first time Isitt has called out the media for coverage of local events that he found disagreeable.
In June 2019, the councillor called on the public to “reject conservative media distractions” after several outlets reported on his motion to request funding for policing military events from DND (Department of National Defence) and Veteran’s Affairs Canada officials.
On Thursday, June 6th – coincidentally the 75th anniversary of D-Day – Victoria Council deliberated on VicPD’s request for additional funding to cover expenses for policing Canada Day and military events in the city.
While the city eventually approved spending $135,000 from their contingency budget to cover these costs, their decision came with conditions.
In particular, councillor Ben Isitt put forth an amendment that asked staff to “engage DND/Veterans Affairs Canada officials to seek to recover costs associated with military events in the City.”
His motion was carried forward with support from councillors Laurel Collins, Jeremy Loveday, Marianna Alto, Sarah Potts, and Sharmarke Dubow.
Once this news was reported by several media outlets, many members of the public responded with outrage, stating that his comments were disrespectful to veterans.
In response, he issued the following statement:
“More unfortunate, however, is the nefarious ways in which conservative political forces and their agents in the corporate media have chosen to distort Victoria City Council’s benign request for assistance from federal authorities, into a supposed affront to war veterans.”
Isitt has not responded to Victoria Buzz’s requests for comment about Tuesday’s events in time for publication.