Protestors gathered in Tucson on Nov. 18 to voice their opposition to Steve Bannon, executive chair of Breitbart News and former director of Biosphere 2, and former adviser to President Donald Trump. Bannon was there to receive the Brian Terry Courage in Journalism and Reporting Award.
The award, sponsored by the Brian Terry Foundation, was presented to Bannon, the event’s keynote speaker, for “Breitbart’s tireless reporting on efforts to hold the Obama administration accountable for the failed gun-running operation known as Fast and Furious.”
Fast and Furious was an operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives under Attorney General Eric Holder meant to sell illicit traffickers weapons in order to trace their location and dismantle cartels across the border.
Many of these guns were lost, and border patrol agent Brian Terry’s death, at the hands of one of the weapons, brought the operation under public scrutiny.
The Brian Terry Foundation was founded to "honor the memory of slain United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and to create a living legacy in his name" by providing finical assistance to Border Patrol agents and their families in case of injury or death, according to the foundations website.
“The foundation has a proud tradition of supporting the families of fallen Border Patrol agents,” said its chairman Robert Heyer in a press release.
According to Heyer, the foundation is a bipartisan organization.
Former winners of the award and speakers include Sharyl Attkisson, a CBS correspondent who reported on the Fast and Furious Operation, and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Protesters had a different view.
Tim Lennon, who helped organize the rally, viewed the invitation of Bannon as a highly partisan act.
“Bannon’s association with Breitbart News gives him a platform spewing hate and divisiveness poisoning our culture,” Lennon said in a press release.
Breitbart News has been criticized in the past by publications such as the New York Times for giving a platform to far-right extremists and promoting conspiracy theories.
One such theory was Pizzagate, which led to a man entering a pizza parlor with an assault rifle, in an attempt to expose a sex dungeon he claimed was operated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Attkisson herself also reported on Benghazi, a terrorist attack on the U.S.-Libyan embassy, and the subsequent eight Republican-led, highly partisan investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which resulted in no charges.
The protest was meant as a show of unity in the face of Bannon’s perceived anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, anti-women and anti-Muslim positions.
“Steve Bannon had done nothing deserving of an award, and the bigotry of his publications and positions is not welcome in Pima County,” said Richard Elías, Pima County supervisor.
Kelly Terry-Willis, Brian's sister, stated in a press release she believed in the protesters' right to assemble but criticized their plans as disrespecting the memory of Brian Terry and his service.
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“No matter what your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that when people from both sides of the political aisle come together to support fallen Border Patrol agents, that’s something worthy of praise, not protest,” Terry-Willis said.
According to Lennon, the rally was primarily meant “to protest the racist, misogynist and bigot Bannon."
Bannon will be introduced to the crowd by former Arizona State Senator, and current U.S. Senate candidate, Kelli Ward.
The ATF agent who exposed the Fast and Furious Operation, John Dodson, as well as Tucsonan Norma Zimdahl, a philanthropist with donations to the American Cancer Society and The Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank), will also be recognized at the event.
Media access to the event was restricted.
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