PEGIDA Canada, Proud Boys and members of other far-right anti-Muslim groups were planning to organize a rally to protest “Islamism in Canada,” almost a year to the day of the Quebec City Mosque Shooting. They had originally planned to demonstrate in Nathan Phillips Square, but decided to re-locate to Mel-Lastman Square after it was announced that space in NPS would be claimed for a memorial event to honor the six men who had lost their lives in the anti-Muslim terror attack last year.
Members of the Toronto I.W.W. General Defense Committee, Toronto Against Fascism, Hamilton Against Fascism, and other anti-fascist affinity groups and individuals arranged to take the space to prevent them from demonstrating and subjecting the public to their vile hate speech and misinformation.
The space by Mel-Lastman visible from Yonge street was claimed by anti-fascists early on around 10 AM, and many more showed up in waves as the counter-demonstration continued. A small cluster of racist demonstrators, some wearing body armor and helmets, huddled and spied from an outdoor walk-way across the square and waited for their usual cordial police escort to arrive before daring to begin demonstrating out in the open to wave red ensigns and Templar crosses.
The police quickly set up makeshift barricades with bikes and police tape while insults were hurled back and forth across the line. Antifascists arranged themselves to hand out pamphlets and engage the public on either side of the small racist demonstration, so for the most part members of the public were able to be informed about what was happening before they encountered the demonstration. Many people were shocked and horrified to hear that this type of demonstration was happening in their neighborhood, and several had just come from a Holocaust memorial event.
The anti-Muslim racists tried to position themselves as being allied with survivors of the Holocaust, and were quickly and publicly reminded that survivors of the Holocaust stand in solidarity with Muslims experiencing religious and racial persecution and that their attempts to veil their hatred would not be tolerated.
The opposition’s turn-out was pathetic, at their peak having maybe 20-30 people, while anti-fascists outnumbered them 3 to 1. At one point, annoyed at those handing out anti-fascist information behind their group, they decided to turn and attempt to march down the side-walk, only to be preceded by comrades who took the opportunity to pamphlet and warn every passer-by what the group was attempting to do. Their small attempt at a march was embarrassing and quickly halted by other groups of anti-fascists.
Between the attempted march and the end of the demonstration some conflict broke out between overzealous police and anti-fascists, over, for example, the use of chalk on a public sidewalk or the obstruction of traffic for crossing the road during the fascists’ attempt to march. Several arrests were attempted but all were prevented. At the end, amid humorous mocking and public disgrace the remaining racists slinked away while the anti-fascists cheered and celebrated their victory.