Public demonstrations about controversial issues often produce unpleasant incidents if not outright violence. Whereas once such episodes played out in the press, on television, and perhaps in the courts, they now fly around the internet attracting attention that is disproportionate and harmful to all concerned. This what happened to a pro-life event in Toronto recently.
The silent protest in Toronto – where CLC is headquartered – has gone viral on the internet, because of an altercation ending with a young pro-life lady being kicked in the shoulder.
Passer-by 26-year-old Jordan Hunt approached the 76 pro-lifers and began scribbling on their signs and clothing with markers. This prompted 27-year-old Marie-Claire Bissonnette, CLC youth coordinator, to start recording him using her phone just as he approached and touched one of the pro-lifers on her shoulder. A young lady waving a pro-choice sign says, “You ought to kill them with kindness, remember?”
“That's right,” Hunt agrees, then comments in an annoyed tone, “What? You're filming me…” to which the pro-choice demonstrator responds, “They've actually had people filming you the whole time. Which is why I say 'kill with kindness!'”
Bissonnette states, “Destruction of private property – it's against the law!”
Hunt cuts in, “If somebody gets raped by somebody, and they’re like, ‘I’m a 16-year-old, and I can’t have this baby,’ think you should keep it?” He makes alternately happy and morose expressions as he sticks his thumbs up, then down.
Bissonnette replies: “It’s a baby. If someone is raped and she gave birth, and she decided to kill her 3-year-old child —”
At this point, Hunt cheekily sticks his tongue out in concentration, pauses, and suddenly gives a roundhouse kick landing on Bissonnette's shoulder, sending her phone flying.
“I meant to kick your phone!” Hunt exclaims in a panic.
Bissonnette yells: “Someone call the cops! Do not touch me!”
Hunt fled before police arrived at the scene – first yanking off a ribbon on Bissonnette's chest – but has since turned himself in and faces eight charges of assault and seven charges of mischief, including an assault charge for pushing a pro-life lady into a pole at another rally in August.
Bissonnette's shoulder began to hurt two hours later and she remained in shock from the unexpected assault. She said: “I forgive him personally, but I have filed a report with the police and they are investigating. It’s not the first time I’ve experienced physical aggression from people who disagree with our message.” She has urged people to keep Hunt in prayer.
The social media onslaught
Meanwhile, thousands across the world have inundated Hunt's former place of employment, Noble Studio 101, with angry messages, fake appointments and threats. Hunt deleted his Instagram account after receiving similar messages.
A Californian created a fake account posting inane and incendiary tweets in Hunt's name, adding fuel to the fire. YouTube is awash with videos mocking him, and other sites are filled with memes and extreme vitriol against him.
Lily Anderson, probably a friend of Hunt's, created a GoFundMe account to raise funds for him and “Eliza Hunt”, which has since been removed. A comment is still visible via Google: “He's a good man with an even better heart. I know him and it's never been his intent to cause physical harm to anyone…” A purported screenshot quotes him saying: “The alt-right doxxed me and forced me to go into hiding. They cost me my beloved job as a hairstylist and I'm shacked up in a cheap motel.” (To “dox” is to publish identifying information about someone on the Internet, usually with malicious intent.)
In addition, Shalyn McGuin, an old friend of his, now a pro-life blogger and stay-at-home mother, wrote: “Jordan Hunt Was My Friend – Before I Had My Daughter From Rape”. She recalled: “He was always quirky. He walked barefoot everywhere, climbed on equipment, statues, poles and trees. He had a loud and contagious laugh and was always a shoulder to lean on. He was unapologetically himself.”
She continues: “Since watching this video I have caught myself grieving. The Jordan I knew died when I saw that video. But it hurts more when I realize he is still here — but he cares so little about my child’s life that he would kick a woman for suggesting we do anything other than abort children like mine.
“This incident has damaged so many people, including him. I pray this is a lesson learned, I pray this opens his eyes, I pray he opens his heart, and I pray that the Jordan I knew comes back some day. I also pray for his victim as she recovers from the trauma of this incident. And I pray for my daughter. I pray that some day, people will see her worth.”
Personally, I feel very sorry for Jordan Hunt, while not condoning his actions. I have a loved one in prison and I can imagine how scary the situation feels to Hunt and his family. There is a difference between lashing out in anger or malice, and hurting someone through pure spur-of-the-moment stupidity. I tried reaching out to a friend of Jordan's to send him a message of support, only to receive a nasty message from yet another troll.
Both my religious friends and members of the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-life League feel similarly. An immense tide of ugliness and cowardly cyber-bullying has been unleashed upon Jordan Hunt, as well as his former employers. It does not reflect well on pro-lifers at all, though I strongly suspect that many of these bullies are not actually pro-life, but simply jumping on the bandwagon for the opportunity to (pardon the pun) kick someone when he's already down.
People are quick to condemn him solely on his ill-judged actions caught on camera. We do not know what wounds he has suffered in life which may contribute to – though not excuse – his behaviour; we do not know how he generally conducts himself, though we have glimpses from his friends who speak kindly of his cheerfulness and good heart. I would wager that he has a sanguine temperament, apt to act without sufficient reflection, but quick to repent too. It would be heartening to hear if he has offered an apology to Bissonnette and the others he has hurt or annoyed.
I commend Hunt for turning himself in, and I hope he receives support in this time of turmoil. A person may well crack and commit suicide in such dire straits, with so much opprobrium rained upon him. Let the court mete out justice, and let us seize the opportunity to “kill with kindness”. Jordan Hunt, if you're reading this, I hope you stay strong and come out a wiser person on the other side.
Jean Seah is a social media manager and freelance writer based in Queensland, Australia. She is also chief editor of the American site Ignitum Today.