An activist invited to speak in Winnipeg said she was shocked by recent comments from Mayor Brian Bowman, who earlier this week called for her to be removed from a panel discussion Friday night.

“I thought I was being invited to a democratic country where the Canadian people enjoy freedom of speech and want to afford it to everyone and I was quite shocked that a mayor would be denouncing a person he does not know,” said Linda Sarsour at a media conference Friday, flanked by supporters from a number of social justice organizations.

On Tuesday Bowman said it was not appropriate to give Sarsour, a Palestinian-American who helped organize the Women’s March movement, as his office put it, a platform “to further propagate anti-Semitic views and hate.”

At the media conference, Harold Shuster of Independent Jewish Voices, was among those who spoke in support of Sarsour.

“On Tuesday, Mayor Bowman condemned Sarsour for attacking the foundation of Israel’s right to exist, suggesting this and other supposed transgressions to be a sign of her anti-Semitic views and hate,” said Shuster. “Memo to Brian Bowman: Sarsour is a Palestinian whose land is currently being occupied and actively colonized by an Israeli state that discriminates against her by law. Is it any wonder why anyone, let alone a Palestinian, might challenge the nature of such a state.”

Sarsour said prior to denouncing her participation in the panel discussion event, being put on by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, Bowman did not attempt to speak with her. 

She also told media the mayor of any city should take into consideration the views of all communities that make up that city, and it was unfair and unjust to target her.

“But to blame a woman of colour, a mother, an organizer in the United States, for me, is beyond the pale,” she said, adding that she is still glad to have been invited to speak in Winnipeg. 

“I’m very excited and honoured to be here with the Social Planning Council and I’m very honoured to be here with members of the Jewish community, who I have built a long-term, 20-year relationship in the United States with them, so I was quite shocked and dismayed by the mayor’s remarks,” she said. 

A protest of the event is expected to take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

The panel discussion, titled “Sorry Not Sorry: Unapologetically Working for Social Justice,” is set to get underway at 7 p.m. at the Ukrainian Labour Temple.

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