Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, British Columbia
Report back from a counter-demonstration against a far-Right ‘Freedom Convoy’ rally in so-called Victoria.
We know the situation has fundamentally changed since this account was originally written for Camas Infoshop back in the beginning of February. We believe this after report remains relevant as Canadian nationalism deepens its grip on popular consciousness and continues to rally its foot soldiers. Whether this is manifested domestically or internationally, we must not be duped into thinking the Canadian state is anything less than predatory, colonial, and imperialist.
The following is a rough first hand account of what a number of counter-demonstrators saw on Saturday February 5th, on the corner of Government and Belleville as the Freedom Convoy converged on the Legislature in Victoria, Lkwungen territory. We will try to keep any added analysis to a minimum and let the reader draw their own conclusions.
When we arrived at Government/Belleville there was already a very large number of people waving Canadian flags and yelling “Freedom.” The counter-protesters were dwarfed in numbers but could be easily found as they were the only ones wearing medical masks.
Our first encounter was a strange one with a known activist friend who has a long history of left-wing organizing but is opposed to the vaccine, government mandates, and health passports. The legitimacy of government mandates and health passports, as well as the Left being uncomfortably silent on such matters are conversations we believe need to be had within the anti-authoritarian movement, but that being said, we firmly believe this demonstration was not the time or the place for such layered discussion. The aggressive display of patriotic nationalism clearly positioned this demonstration on the political Right. To not address this blatant fact is to clearly misunderstand the dangers of nationalist ideology and far-Right street level mobilization. To elevate personal opinions on health matters as above both collective health and right-wing nationalist mobilization is a very dangerous oversight.
The counter-demonstration was about 20 to 30 people max. Because it was vastly outnumbered by the flag wavers, the majority of counter-demonstrators moved to the north side of Belleville both for safety and to not be mistaken for flag wavers. About a dozen of us stayed on the south side and we were only able to keep track of one another by the medical masks we were wearing.
The tension rapidly built as the flag wavers eye balled us and young men would walk through the counter-demonstrators taunting us and, “Looking for answers.” Three young men walked through the counter-demonstrators, one of whom was wearing a Third Reich field cap and a bomber jacket. It was only the counter-demonstrators who called this out.
The noise was now becoming deafening as the lead vehicles of the convoy were starting to arrive around 11:30 AM. A flag waver started forcefully questioning a father and his two sons about the pro-health-care worker sign they were holding. When the flag waver kept getting into his face, he asked her to please leave him alone. She began yelling at him as another flag waver joined in with a loud drum right behind the father’s head.
At this time a man pushed his way through the counter-demonstrators, which was not easy to do considering our thin numbers, and made a point of actively bumping into people as though he was in a bar looking for a fight. He threatened to fight any counter-demonstrator who made eye contact with him and a young man right behind him squared up to any counter-demonstrator who took issue with this bullying. This young man confronted an annoyed counter-demonstrator and threatened to, “beat the shit” out of him and referred to him as a, “fag.”
Another counter-demonstrator was being talked at by a biker type man, who matched the description of a Soldier of Odin goon at the John A Macdonald statue removal in 2018. The counter-demonstrator was trying to answer the man’s questions while the man waved his finger in his face and poked his chest. The counter-demonstrators continued to hold up their signs, while other counter-demonstrators made efforts to watch out for provocations or being pushed from behind into traffic.
The police presence throughout all of this was moderate. The cops appeared to be relaxed and even jovial. This was a conspicuous contrast to other demonstrations ranging from Wet’suwet’en solidarity, Black Lives Matter, the 215+ mass graves, and the John A Macdonald statue removal.
The nationalist atmosphere was overt and amped up. The counter-demonstrators were being eyed up from all sides. Groups of young men walked around puffed up and fists clenched seeming to want to get into a fight. Pick up trucks full of rowdy white men streamed down Belleville with bands like Pantera and Metallica blaring from their open windows.
There were two vehicles with BLM and rainbow flags and one even had a Mohawk warrior flag, but they also both had much larger Canadian flags. From our vantage point the overwhelming majority of people in attendance were white.
We stepped away for a rest and some food. The honking and pick up trucks with flags were everywhere. People in their apartments were yelling at them to, “shut the fuck up” and “go home.”
When we came back, the south west corner of Belleville and Government was a sea of Canadian flags. We could not see any counter-demonstrators left there. There were a few counter-demonstrators on the north west side but they were vastly outnumbered by the flag wavers and barely visible. The counter-protesters were otherwise on the north east and south east corners of the intersection, maybe 15 total between the two corners. Lots of flag wavers walked by taunting the counter-protesters and mumbling about how many people vaccines kill.
One of the counter-protesters holding up a sign on the curb was grabbed from behind by a man. When he couldn’t struggle free he called for the police who then came and grabbed him the counter-demonstrator. The man who had grabbed him lingered and then just walked away giggling.
Another man was harassing a group of female counter-demonstrators telling them they were weak and stupid while standing uncomfortably close to them (it must be pointed out that the south east corner where this happened was not crowded at all). When one of the female counter-demonstrators asked two other counter-demonstrators to stand with them, the man became combative saying, “get your dick out of my ass,” and threatened to fight one of the counter demonstrators. When he shoved the counter-demonstrator and raised his fists, the police jumped in and grabbed the counter-demonstrator, telling him (the counter-demonstrator) if he did not back up he would be arrested. The combative man was allowed to stay exactly where he was and continued to harass the female counter-demonstrators. About 12 police arrived and eyeballed the remaining counter-protesters hard, while also taking time to smile and wave at the passing cars honking and flying Canadian flags.
A few minutes later a young man crossed the street to ask one of the counter-demonstrators some questions. After some rambling back and forth over vaccine efficiency and work anecdotes, the man became agitated when the counter-demonstrator said he was not comfortable with the surly display of nationalism at the rally. The man asked the counter-demonstrator if he loved Canada and the counter-demonstrator responded that he was anti-nationalist and that Canada had done nothing but exploit and brutalize Indigenous people and workers throughout its history, therefore yes he is anti-Canada. The man became very hostile and stuck his camera in the counter-demonstrator’s face, and when the counter-demonstrator held up his sign, the man ripped it down and threw a punch. Other counter-demonstrators quickly intervened to create space and defuse the situation so as to not give the police their excuse to jump in again.
At this point a number of large men crossed the street to stand behind the counter-protesters and watch them. It must be noted that one of these men had a hunting knife visible sticking out from under his jacket. The counter-demonstrators began discussing how much longer they should stay and started making plans to leave.
There was a big homemade sign stuck to the BC Museum sign reading something about Right to Fly and Support the Blue. A female counter-protester walked over and began taking it down. The situation became instantly chaotic when she was set upon by a man who had been hovering over us for the last hour, and another female counter-demonstrator coming to her aid was knocked to the ground hard. The bigger men rushed in from behind but were stopped by other counter-demonstrators facing off over raised fists. The police were suddenly everywhere again and grabbed the first two female counter-protesters while posturing against the remaining counter-protesters. When the chaos subsided, the police said that they were not resourced to process any information leading to charges being pressed against the man who had tackled the two counter-demonstrators. The large men continued to hang around unimpeded and taunted the counter-protesters with the one man pointing out how his hunting knife was no big deal because it got him out of a fight once.
Once this last confrontation spaced out, the counter-demonstrators convened and decided to move off in our separate directions taking precautions not to be followed.
We hope this narrative can provide insight and a clearer picture of what is going on with these Freedom Convoys, right-wing mobilization, and the Canadian state.
Stick together and be safe friends.
Analyze, Organize, Act!
photo: WikiCommons, (CC BY-SA 2.0)