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Politician punched in face protesting transphobes, says he’d do it again “any day”

Politician punched in face protesting transphobes, says he’d do it again “any day”
Ontario MP Joel Harden Photo: Screenshot Twitter

On Friday, a protest and counter-demonstration on a leafy street in Ottawa — normally home to students making their way to and from three schools in the area — was instead the site of hateful rhetoric and violence in the Canadian capital.

A local MP became the face of the melee, when he was “rabbit-punched” at the protest — he said he’d do it all over again to keep trans and queer kids safe.

“I’ll take a punch for queer and trans youth any day,” said Joel Harden, a member of Ontario’s provincial Parliament with the New Democratic Party (NDP).

The demonstration was organized by far-right Canadian provocateur Billboard Chris to protest a local school board advising staff to use they/them pronouns for students who had yet to share their personal pronouns.

Muslim parents joined a mostly White crowd denouncing the advisory notice. Some were seen encouraging their kids to violently stomp on progress Pride flags littering the street.

Harden, elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario five years ago, has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ+ issues, and attended the counter-protest in solidarity with LGBTQ+ youth and their parents.

The MPP recounted that during the protest, he noticed a woman berating another individual, with her hands in the person’s hair. He says he rushed over to break up the altercation.

“I felt a punch in the back and then a rabbit-punch to the face,” Harden recalled for Yahoo Canada. “It happened in a split-second.”

Photos of Harden reveal a cut below his right eye.

Video on social media shows the megaphone Harden was holding striking his face (where the cut now appears).

The day before the protest, the legislator warned in a speech to members of Parliament of the threat to queer and trans youth as the country celebrates Pride Month.

“As incidents of hate against the 2SLGBTQIA are rising, we have a message for queer and trans youth in #OttawaCentre and everywhere in this province,” Harden posted to Twitter afterward. “We see you, love you, value you, and we will not continue to let you be threatened by hate or bigotry.”

Harden says the far-right is weaponizing social media, calling it a “vitriolic cesspool,” and manipulating parents’ instincts to protect their kids in order to further conservatives’ own anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.

“I am a father. What measures I wouldn’t go to in an effort to protect my own children? But what this movement is doing is convincing individuals that to protect your children, you have to hate trans and queer people,” he says.

Those supporting the rights of LGBTQ+ youth “are not your enemy,” he adds.

“History and present day has taught me that there are some of us who are willing to put the work in to de-program hatred, and I’m down for that,” said Harden. “If people want to come to my office and throw rotten tomatoes at me, come over.”

Fellow lawmakers and constituents alike expressed solidarity with Harden.

My local MPP @JoelHardenONDP just got punched in the face at a counter rally, during an anti-trans protest,” posted Kathryn LeBlanc. “Queer and trans people are sounding the alarm on rising hate. It’s time to come together, mobilize, and build solidarity on this issue.”

While conservative Muslims joined far-right Canadians in protest, Sikh pol and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh had Harden’s back.

“I’m proud of you @JoelHardenONDP,” posted Singh. “Queer and Trans people — and kids — are being targeted by angry and hateful extremists. Governments must step up to protect the queer and trans community.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jagmeet Singh is Muslim. We regret the error.

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