A report back from the Toronto based General Defense Committee (GDC) on a recent mobilization against far-Right and anti-immigrant organization PEGIDA.
On Saturday May 4th, 2019, PEGIDA Canada (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) – the anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, white nationalists, along with their collaborators – assembled for a rally and a march outside Staples’s University and Armoury location just steps away from City Hall with alarming numbers yet again. The fact they did this on Star Wars day out of all days is unforgivable.
They were joined by militant far-right hate groups armed with knuckled gloves, knives, extendable batons and more, eager to use violence to promote their beliefs, including the Canadian Nationalist Party, Sons/Wolves of Odin, Proud Boys, Northern Guard, Canadian Yellow Vests, and the Jewish Defense League, just as they have for virtually every month for the last four years.
Their last rally occurred on March 23rd, just one week after a fascist, white nationalist, anti-Muslim terrorist massacred 50 Muslims and injured many more at two mosques in New Zealand. They were met with an overwhelming number of anti-fascist (if you oppose and condemn this attack, you’re an anti-fascist) counter protestors that were able to effectively shut down their platform and blocked them from marching in the streets of Toronto. Despite what they claim, PEGIDA’s message and ridiculous notions of “creeping Jihad” in Canada based on nothing but racism, conspiracy theories and hatred are all complicit in attacks like the one in Christchurch.
On Saturday, PEGIDA and their alt-right militant thugs showed up with a large contingent and hid behind their state-funded police and barricades. They were met once again by local communities and orgs intent on shutting them down and preventing them from marching in the streets.
Despite some of their members on Facebook publicly posting an offer of $500 to anyone willing to commit violence against anti-racist activists on Saturday, police from 52 division and the PSRT (riot squad) unit immediately began to forcefully shove us back across the street from them and put up more barricades as a show of force and to set the tone for the day. The message was clear that the police were intent upon defending and allowing PEGIDA to march with their message and were not afraid of using brutal tactics or violence to allow them to do so.
The police were not there to defend free speech laws. In Canada hate speech is outlawed and is not protected by free speech laws in the charter of rights. There can be no mistake that PEGIDA’s message is nothing but outright racist, Islamophobic hate speech, and by protecting PEGIDA, the police are complicit in giving them a platform for hate in the streets of Toronto.
After a very intense start to the day, the counter protestors made up of local anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-hate groups and allies, settled in for a long afternoon of vocal resistance, announcements, declarations and camaraderie in direct opposition to PEGIDA. Unfortunately, turn out on the counter protester side was much lower than the last rally. It’s worthy of note that the turnout was more than double immediately following the Christchurch attacks a month ago. It seems like many folks seem to only be outraged or alarmed enough to show up in protest if there’s a mass tragedy to prompt them. To that crowd, we want to say that this kind of racism and hate is ongoing – it doesn’t just stop when the news stops covering it and needs to continuously be opposed by any means necessary on an ongoing basis. This kind of hatred inspires attacks to come. It’s not enough to be against racism; one must be actively anti-racist to make a difference. Racism and the notion of white supremacy is deeply-rooted systemically in Canada and across the globe. It’s insidious and to many, it’s not overt enough to do anything about it, but make no mistake, white supremacy is rampant in 2019 at the highest levels trickling down to every fibre of society.
Hateful chants and rants about how “Canada is a Christian nation being destroyed by Muslims and immigrants” from the right were drowned out by any means at our disposal. Rhythms of resistance were on hand to keep our momentum up to add to the cacophony of noise.
We did notice that the far-right have started to evolve with their signage and tactics. There were signs and chants that mimicked some of ours, except without a hint of irony on their end. This shouldn’t come as a surprise with the “but my freeze peach” and “facts not feelings” crowd.
At one point in the afternoon, the far-right gleefully took to burning a Quran in broad daylight. Their attempts were quite pathetic and laughable as they were clearly having a lot of trouble actually succeeding in it, highlighting how pathetic their hatred truly is.
When it was time for them to march, protestors made up from all walks of life in solidarity with Muslims and immigrants, stormed the police barricades to get in front of the racists to deny them their platform. With linked arms and beating drums of resistance – despite the attempts of the police – the far-right was quickly stopped on University Avenue before they could march any further through the streets with their hateful banners and speeches.
Any further attempts at continuing the march were thwarted and we settled into an extended standoff with the racists. Eventually, after one far-right chud was arrested for throwing a smoke bomb the police started to shamefully escort them away in small groups. It’s funny how they’re so intent on proving how tough they are and how eager they are to scream taunts of violence while they’re clearly hiding behind a solid wall of armed riot police.
Despite being led away with the conditions that they disperse and go home, the chuds reassembled at the bottom of the street and a group of Proud Boys and Canadian Yellow Vests crossed the road and made it to Queen’s Park for a pathetic display of bigotry and hatred with police protection.
This kind of hatred has no place in the streets of Toronto (let alone anywhere in the world). It’s also not a new thing. Racists and bigots have been empowered to publicly and brazenly flaunt their beliefs again. Misplaced anger and hateful propaganda spewing forth all across the Internet have emboldened them to organize in secret and publicly once again. They must continue to be opposed in any way possible. It’s not enough to just not be racist anymore. If you’re not contributing to combating white supremacy or racism, you’re complicit in upholding and propagating it.
Despite our lower numbers than last month and very real danger to ourselves – our determination, co-ordination, solidarity, and action resulted in a clear victory over the racists yet again. Victory in the sense that we shut down their platform despite the overwhelming odds, hatred and numbers. We say it’s victory in a sense because we haven’t won the fight. That fight is ongoing and is increasingly becoming more and more important as the right amass more support and power from the grassroots all the way up to the highest levels of office and power.
We don’t enjoy having to do this every month. We don’t enjoy having to actively combat hate in the streets but we do so out of necessity and we always need more folks willing to stand up to fascists and racists until all their platforms are taken away and the state stops condoning and sanctioning their movements.
We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks and love to all the organizations, communities and comrades that put aside their fear and rallied together on Saturday to stop the racists. Every single person there should feel proud of what they did on Saturday.
If you’re interested in joining us to combat racism, oppression, imperialism, capitalism and fascism, please reach out to the page or to be directed to an org that fits.
An injury to one is an injury to all.