Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Ontario, The State
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Report back from recent actions in Hamilton, Ontario against a far-Right and anti-immigrant political party fundraiser.
This past weekend Mohawk College held a campaign fundraiser event for Maxime Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada. Bernier was interviewed by Dave Rubin, an American YouTube personality who proudly hosts well known white supremacists on his show. Neither Bernier or Rubin should ever be given room to spread their hate.
Despite resounding critiques and calls to cancel the event, the college claimed because of their policies they could not cancel the event, and that in fact, the event was not an endorsement of any political party. As a direct result of the criticism, Mohawk increased their security fee (which Dave Rubin so generously paid for- a possible campaign finance law violation) which in turn increased police presence.
What Mohawk didn’t count on, was that their decision to give a platform to white supremacy set the stage for some fabulous community members to organize the now infamous protest: Shut It Down: All Out Against Maxime Bernier. Following the protest, it has become evident that not only did we achieve our primary goal, but our success has spurred a ripple effect, detailed below.
The goal of the protest was to show Maxime Bernier and the PPC that they are not welcome in our city, or anywhere else in this country. There were explicit directives by the organizer that we were not there to shut down the event, but to ensure that attendees were made to confront their decision to attend. It’s no secret that Hamilton has a festering hate crisis. Phobia and hate related attacks are on the rise as our city’s institutions continue to at best ignore, and at worst embolden, both local and far reaching white supremacist groups. Hamilton police have continued their long tradition of protecting fascists while criminalizing and repressing those who stand up to them. This context cemented our resolve that attendees of this event needed to know their attendance and financial contribution to Bernier’s fundraiser wouldn’t go unchallenged.
The protest consisted of various groups and individuals uniting, demonstrating how anti-fascist movements are gaining traction in communities outside the average “protest veterans”. We were not going to make it easy for attendees of the fundraiser to just show up, walk in, and line the pockets of Canada’s well known racists. We were going to use everyone’s strengths to stand united against their harmful and violent ideology (that perpetuates racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and all forms of bigotry).
A contingent of approximately 25 protestors met offsite and walked to the entrance of the building where the fundraiser was being held, blaring Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, and dancing their hearts out. They joined a growing group of protestors outside the event that swelled to approximately 100 people at its peak. Members of the “Love in the Hammer” choir arrived to spread joy and love in the face of hatred. They focused on de-escalation and distraction. Others arrived with signs and chants ready to loudly and unconditionally make the PPC and their supporters uncomfortable. They focused on a visual and auditory impact that slowed attendees from entering, forced them to question/defend their views, and gave other members time to get to safety when necessary. Other groups formed organically throughout the protest to focus on energy sustainment, mingling, comradery building and steadfast opposition to Maxime Bernier, Dave Rubin, and the PPC. Groups of protestors spread themselves out in front of the entrance to the building, ensuring that no attendee could enter the event unchallenged.
The protestors were met with a wall of Hamilton police officers standing shoulder to shoulder with known white supremacist groups including the Proud Boys and the Northern Guard. They were later joined by members of the Hamilton Yellow Vests and the Canadian Nationalist Party. The latter groups have been rallying at Hamilton’s city hall every Saturday since January, to spread their toxic rhetoric. Many people seen behind the police line or standing with the police were involved in the attack on Hamilton Pride earlier this year, including Derek Storie and Melody/Melanie Summerhayes. The actions of the Hamilton police officers throughout the protest provided a crystal clear example of who they really serve. They worked hand in hand with members of violent white supremacist groups to create the conditions for protestors to be assaulted and then arrested. Examples of this are detailed in this reportback, including this incident that led to the first arrest of the night:
“A PPC supporter in a blue jacket attacked an anti-fascist and tackled her to the ground. Another protester in a red shirt pulled the attacker off her — and then the HPS swarmed in and arrested the guy in the red shirt. The protesters attempted to block the arrest, but to no avail.”
Following the protest, the mainstream media is trying to indicate that from an optics standpoint, we didn’t succeed. They found a 24 second long clip from a two and a half hour event and spun it, as they so often do. However, success is relative to the goals, and in our goals, we succeeded. All attendees of the event had to walk through a very diverse, and united group, who did not want them there. We made a stand against racism and made racists and their supporters uncomfortable, as we set out to do. As a community we left together, and we kept each other safe until everyone was on their way home (even as a group of fascists followed us from the protest to our dispersing area). We supported our comrades who were arrested at the hands of Hamilton cops with assistance from the Proud Boys and Northern Guard.
Now is the time we continue to stand together as a community and support our own. The mainstream optics are rarely in our favour; they love the Anti-fa villains and we must always operate under that assumption. We learned again how quickly context can change, and how ready the media will be to jump on that, and next time, we’ll be ready to combat this.
The longer than 24 seconds reality is, there were multiple arrests, in violent manners, and never on the attendees when they instigated brawls and shoving matches. There were multiple brawls and physical altercations started from the other side. However, we stood united. Comrades who were arrested were shown support immediately and vocally from all in attendance. Comrades who were assaulted were checked on and tended to. Comrades who were followed by fascists as they left the protest, were followed by allies to let them know what was happening and keep them safe. We stood together, with our different strategies, to keep the goal on track. The right will twist anything they need to project their “#AntifaDomesticTerrorits” rhetoric but together we can keep our community from fragmenting because of it.
As alluded to at the beginning, not only were our direct goals met, more successes arrived from this event.
The University of Guelph released a statement declaring they would be cancelling their event involving the PPC and cited the Mohawk college protest as one of the reasons they decided to cancel their event.
“[They] also cited student safety as a reason to cancel the debate, with the latter pointing to recent events in Hamilton…“We were concerned that similar events might transpire on campus with our event,” Williams said.”
Our actions were enough to completely de-platorm another PPC candidate! Our protest helped give the university’s Central Student Association and CUPE Local 1334 the power to make the decision to say no to giving racism a platform.
Secondly, the PPC candidate for West Nova, Chad Hudson, tweeted that he would no longer be running for the PPC.
“The former candidate also said clashes outside of a Sunday night event featuring Bernier and right wing commentator Dave Rubin contributed to him reaching the point where he could no longer accept running for the party.”
A community goal reached, an event cancelled, and a candidate removed from running, for a few hours of work? We live for successes such as these. The ripple effect can grow from here, and pressure can be placed on further platforms to continue to grow this success.
We learn from every action we take. We unite stronger. We teach new attendees how to be more mindful and we check our own learning and teaching blind spots. And we recognize that holding strong to our goals and celebrating our successes is crucial to carrying the energy of our actions. Publicly calling out and distancing ourselves from unpopular action (and those that participated in them) only divides us when we most need to support one another. We need to work, not to shy away and distance ourselves from the bad press at the expense of our comrades, but to address it together and solidify change to make us all better.
Solidarity forever. No platform for fascists. And fuck Maxime Bernier.