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Former Trump advisor draws protest at Erie speaker series

Alex Bell/The Behrend Beacon

11-13-2018

Alex Bell, News Editor

“We need to reassess, all of us, our dedication to the freedoms enshrined in our filing documents.” These words were said by Sebastian Gorka, as he kicked off his presentation at the Jefferson Educational Society (JES) this Wednesday. Gorka is a former Deputy Assistant to President Trump and analyst for Breitbart News, among other titles. He was invited to the JES to be a part of a summit being held to expose members of the community to issues affecting Erie, the country, and the world.

Gorka, though born in the United Kingdom, lived in Hungary for a number of years, before becoming a citizen of the United States. His parents had met in Hungary in the midst of the anti-soviet uprising, before fleeing the country. This, Gorka said, is key to his perspective on many of the issues he brought to the table during his time in the Trump administration. This perspective made up a significant portion of what he discussed during his time at the JES.

Gorka has been criticized for his ties to alt-right and nationalistic groups in Hungary, among some actions he has taken while living in the United States. While leading his political career in Hungary, Gorka declared his support for the militia Magyar Gárda, according to Forward. The European Court of Human Rights later condemned Magyar Gárda for attempting to promote an “essentially racist” legal order. Jobbik, a far-right political party in Hungary, voiced its support for the creation of the Magyar Garda. Gorka simply responded, “that is so,” when asked whether he supported the party’s decision to instate the militia during a 2007 interview aired on Hungary’s Echo TV. He did admit that there could be better solutions to the ineffectiveness of the police force, however, he did not appear to deny that the militia had the constitutional right to form and act.

This, along with several other factors during his political career--including his belief that Islam is an inherent threat to American national security, according to the Washington Post--put some Erie natives on edge when he was invited to speak at the JES. His appearance ruffled more than a few feathers and protestors lined the sidewalk in front of the building. As many as five police officers were stationed both inside and in front of the crowd during the demonstration, though they would not comment on their presence at the event.

“You know, Martin Luther King said ‘If you see an injustice, say something’. That’s what I’m doing, I’m saying something,” said Darnell Stallworth, the organizer of the protest. Other protestors made a point to express their discontentment with the JES’ decision to invite Gorka to speak in the summit, saying that, as a non-profit, it was not in their mission statement to offer political commentary. However, several of the protestors seemed to be reacting to more than just Gorka’s appearance; a number of the picket signs made reference to President Trump, and talk of the midterm elections buzzed the crowd. Some protestors, when asked what brought them to the event, responded entirely about Trump and the Republican party, making no reference to Gorka.

Though Gorka prized the right to free speech during his time on stage, he made several comments about the protestors gathering just outside of the building.

“There’s, unfortunately, a very high level of hatred on the left. In a democracy like ours, you’re allowed to protest, but it seems all too often that they want to shut down those who disagree with them,” Gorka said. “I’m gonna come here, I’m delighted to be here, I’m gonna give my speech, and we’ll see if they can behave within the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

Gorka also denounced his protestors and the press alike for not hearing his perspective before they choose to comment on his statements. Having recently published a book detailing his story and time in the White House, he asked members of the public to properly understand him before choosing to admonish him.

“What I’d say to them is why don’t you listen to what I say? Why don’t you read what I write? Why don’t you ignore most of the stuff that's on the internet...So, do your homework, and make your judgment, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet,” Gorka said.