U.S. blogger testifies in complaint against York police
TORONTO — Controversial American blogger and activist Pamela Geller is asking a police review board to discipline members of York Regional Police (YRP) for violating police protocols when they asked Rabbi Mendel Kaplan to reconsider hosting her.
Geller gave evidence this week to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) – the province-wide body that probes public complaints against police – in support of her claim that York Regional Police (YRP) forced the cancellation of a synagogue appearance by her about 3-1/2 months ago.
Geller, an outspoken critic of Islamism, laid her complaint after YRP Insp. Ricky Veerappan told Rabbi Kaplan of Chabad @ Flamingo that he risked losing his position as a police chaplain if the synagogue hosted Geller.
“Our concern is that Rabbi Kaplan is also a representative of the police, he wears a police uniform, and some of the comments that have been attributed to Ms. Geller really posed a conflict situation for us in YRP,” Veerappan said at the time. Veerappan is head of the YRP diversity, equity and inclusion section.
Police said hosting Geller “would clearly be in contravention of the values of our organization,” but they have never specified what they find problematic about Geller.
Geller is executive director of Stop Islamification of America, a group that opposes construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York. The group has also sponsored anti-jihad advertisements in subways and buses. Her critics accuse her of Islamophobia.
Geller had been scheduled to speak on “the war on free speech” at an event sponsored by the Jewish Defence League.
At the time of the cancellation, she accused York police of “enforcing sharia [Islamic] law. That’s what this is, that under blasphemy laws you cannot criticize or offend Islam. That’s shocking.”
In an email interview, Geller said she gave evidence for about 30 minutes to the OIPRD via Skype. Questioned by investigator Grant Wilkinson, she was asked about the details surrounding the cancelled speaking engagement.
She told the investigation “it is the duty of people who hold positions of public trust, in this case Insp. Veerappan, to be responsible for all the people. There has to be a greater scrutiny on people who hold such responsibility. He has risen to the top of the diversity, equity and inclusion bureau, and that gives him power. If he breaches the public trust, there have to be greater sanctions on him. He’s not just a street cop – he is in a position of trust. He has to be very careful in what he does. As opposed to using his power as a club to intimidate or bully, he has to be very judicious in how he uses it,” Geller stated.
Geller’s complaint claims “breach of police policy and conduct pursuant to the police code of conduct and the York Regional Police’s Code of Professional Ethics.”
In a statement last May, YRP said reports that Rabbi Kaplan had been threatened were “a flagrant misrepresentation of the facts.”
According to police, the rabbi cancelled Geller’s talk because “it would place him in conflict with the values of our organization, which support a safe, welcoming and inclusive community for all.”
Geller rejected that contention. “I am actually fighting for diversity and tolerance. It is my opponents who are radically intolerant and try to shut down my message. I am fighting for the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, individual rights and equality of rights for all. There is nothing intolerant about that.”
She also rejected suggestions she is guilty of “Islamophobia.” That “is a manipulative term designed to intimidate people into thinking there is something wrong with resisting jihad violence and Islamic supremacism… There is no call to attack innocent people of any kind in my work against the sharia oppression of women, gays, etc.”
For his part, Rabbi Kaplan believes “there was a very clear choice laid out to me. The police said, ‘We don’t believe this agrees with [our] values, so either you have to give up your chaplaincy or you can have this speech.’
“I did something that I didn’t necessarily want to do because I had to do it,” he told JTA. “It was a wise decision not to host her, because it was not something worth losing my chaplaincy over.”
JDL leader Meir Weinstein said Geller was rebooked into the Toronto Zionist Centre, where some 450 people came to hear her speak, and another 200 were turned away.
Weinstein said Geller will be back in Toronto on Sept. 17 to speak on radical Islam, along with author Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch.
The OIPRD would not comment on an ongoing investigation.