By Jeff Shantz
The white supremacist Soldiers of Odin (SOO) are clearly feeling emboldened as they have openly mobilized in communities as distinct as Nanaimo, British Columbia and Edmonton, Alberta over the last month. And their approach is clearly opportunistic as they have mobilized to threaten a homeless camp in Nanaimo while announcing plans to give food and water to homeless people outside a street ministry in Edmonton. The attempt to connect with homeless people is not a unique one as SOO in Surrey, BC, tried to stir anger among homeless people against refugees who SOO blamed, incorrectly of course, for “taking” housing. In Edmonton, as in Nanaimo, a community rallied to confront the neo-Nazis and drive them off the streets.
Online messages claimed that the Soldiers of Odin, Onward Christian Soldiers, and the Northern Guard were planning to serve food and water to homeless people outside of the Mustard Seed Church on Labor Day, September 3rd, 2018. They called on all “like-minded patriotic groups” to join them.
Instead residents in the city’s McCauley neighborhood went door to door to bring people out to confront the racists. In the end about 40 residents showed up to oppose a dozen or so SOO members and a handful of their supporters. After some verbal sparring the SOO moved on. Counter-protesters followed them as they moved a few blocks away. After a half-hour standoff, monitored by cops, the neo-Nazis packed up and took off.
As in Nanaimo it should be noted that there are layers of supporters who show up to encourage the SOO and/or to express bigoted views (against migrants but also against homeless people). This needs to be recognized and confronted.
The SOO event happened only a few blocks away from the Edmonton and District Labour Council’s annual Labor Day barbecue and was likely planned to draw people from there. It is unfortunate that a sizeable contingent from the organized labor gathering did not go to confront the neo-Nazis. That would have been a show of social unionism, organized working class community defense, and perhaps a recognition that fascists are always geared toward destruction of unions and union movements. Antifascist organizing is something the labor movement needs to re-orient towards actively in the present period (and beyond).