MONTREAL – The Pink Panthers and their Sodomobile crashed the Conservative party’s convention Thursday night.
Some 50 protestors wearing pink balaclavas rushed the doors at the Palais des Congrès as convention delegates prepared for their official opening ceremonies at this city’s conference center.
When security guards blocked the doors and locked them, they chanted slogans and challenged delegates entering the building.
“Harper you suck, but do you swallow?” chanted the protestors, some of them dressed in costumes like those worn by priests of different religions. Others carried painted pink dish drainers as shields and pink painted Styrofoam rolls as swords.
“Anti-choice, anti-gay, Stephen Harper go away,” they chanted as they threw about four-dozen condoms in the air.
Parked behind the protestors was the Sodomobile. The roof of the van featured a papier-mâché likeness of Stephen Harper, bent over with his pants down, being sodomized by the Pink Panther.
“Isn’t he beautiful?” asked Emma Pantoufle, spokesperson for the Panthers. “We worked very hard on that.
“It’s everything Stephen Harper doesn’t want to see. It’s subversive, perversive.”
“We’re here to protest Stephen Harper’s policies. They’re racist, sexist, homophobic – the whole lot.”
The Panthers are a local queer radical group with a three-year history of direct action protests, says Pantoufle. There’s also a chapter in Paris, France, she says.
Quebec delegates, fresh from a meeting in a nearby hotel, pushed through the protestors to enter the building, ignoring a nearby entrance until security guards insisted they use it. (The Quebec delegates had met to re-establish the separate wing of the Conservative Party that brought Brian Mulroney to power in 1984.)
“I want to say, ‘yeah’ in support of the protesters, confided one Tory delegate to her companion. “What is this, the fascista?” she asked, pointing to the police blocking the entrance.
But Tory delegate Brian Fitzpatrick was angry at the Pink Panthers. “A peaceful demonstration – that’s fine. But when they tell me I can’t enter a building, they’re crossing the line.”
“Communists!” spat out one young Conservative after walking in unobstructed past the Panthers.
But several gay delegates walked out to greet the protestors and ask about their demonstration.
“I like people whether they are Conservative or whatever,” explained Craig Stevens, a 17-year-old selected delegate from Chatham Kent Essex. “I support the Conservative Party and I support the leader,” he said.
Stevens says he’s chosen to be “involved and promote socially progressive views within the party.” But he doesn’t criticize the Pink Panthers.
“I understand why they’re out there doing what they’re doing. It’s not what I would do but I see it as an effective way to get the message out.”
In an evening address to the delegates, Tory deputy leader Peter MacKay referred to the 2004 election in which his party enjoyed an early lead until the Liberals focused on extremist social views of some Conservative MPs and candidates.
The policy convention, the first since the Reform/Canadian Alliance party merged with the Progressive Conservatives, is a vital step in the party’s efforts to be seen as a government in waiting, he said.
“Let us never again let another political party define us.”
MacKay later told reporters that he hoped delegates would not choose socially conservative policies opposing same-sex marriage and abortion, but would instead rule that MPs should be able to vote according to their own conscience on “moral issues.”
The efforts of party organizers to focus the media on good-news stories at the policy conference were undermined Thursday by the latest actions of controversial MP Cheryl Gallant, whose anti-gay and anti-abortion comments in the 2004 federal election cost the party votes.
Gallant’s latest taxpayer-funded brochure to constituents accuses the federal and Ontario Liberal Partys of the “evil” practice of being “Christianophobic.”
“Christianity is under attack,” said the brochure.
It claims the federal government launched a “campaign of intimidation to silence churches by dispatching tax collectors to threaten the charitable tax status of denominations who speak out against the Liberal government.”
And the brochure claims the “recent persecution of a Christian children’s camp by the Ontario Liberal Party over its flawed and unworkable water regulations is but one example of anti-Christian actions here at home.”
Stephen Harper dodged the issue, suggesting reporters talk directly to Gallant. Gallant did not return media phone calls.
A group of delegates supporting same-sex marriage are threatening to walk out of the convention if the party adopts as official policy Harper’s anti-gay stance on marriage.
And anti-abortion activists are threatening to do the same, if the party does not take an official position against abortion.