By Jeff Shantz
Anti-fascists in Toronto had to mobilize once more to oppose far Right racists PEGIDA (the “Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes”) who organized an anti-Muslim, anti-refugee rally at University Avenue and Armoury Street in the city’s downtown. Fascists were present from a range of groups, including Wolves of Odin, Soldiers of Odin, Canadian Combat Coalition and Northern Guard.
Part of a larger international network, PEGIDA is one of the most publicly active of the new far Right groups mobilizing anti-Muslim hate in the Canadian context. They began organizing demonstrations in Quebec in 2015 and have been a regular presence in several cities in Canada since. They hold monthly rotating rallies in Toronto and London, Ontario. Their rallies have been a magnet for neo-fascist individuals and groups, including the Northern Guard, Proud Boys, and the armed anti-Muslim Three Percenter militia.
An estimated 80 antifascists showed up to confront the 20 or so fascists. Toronto police again operated to provide the fascists a space to spew their hate. And spew they did. Someone from the fascist crowd set off a smoke bomb. This is something that so-called yellow vests protesters have taken to doing at small demonstrations at highway overpasses near Toronto. Andre Ch (Canadian Nationalist Party), Derek Storie/Rick Boswick (Yellow Vests), and members of Wolves of Odin, Proud Boys, and other Nationalist Party members were also involved in burning a Quran.
The fascists also tried to attack antifascists using their flag poles as weapons to do so. Toronto police, unsurprisingly, did nothing to stop that. They did however deploy violence against the antifascists reportedly using their police bikes to strike at antifascists.
The antifascists did manage to keep the fascists from marching. They remained confined to the space provided by and protected by police.
Given the recurrence of PEGIDA rallies in Canada, and Ontario in particular, much organizing remains to keep them from mobilizing.
It has long been said that cops and klan go hand in hand. This holds in Canada as in the US. On Saturday, September 8, 2018, Toronto police provided a personal security detail to ensure that fascists were able to march through the streets of Toronto, the country’s largest and most diverse city. The march was the first of two slated to happen over the first weekend after Labor Day. Groups claiming attendance include PEGIDA, Soldiers of Odin, Wolves of Odin, Worldwide Coalition Against Islam, Proud Boys, Northern Guard, and III%ers, a veritable cross section of neo-fascist and white supremacist groups in Canada. About 65 fascists in total showed up.
Witnesses say Toronto Police Service (TPS) formed a wedge to force through groups of counter-protesters who came to oppose the fascsists. At one point, witnesses report, police punched an Indigenous woman in the face to clear a path for their kindred spirits.
PEGIDA put forward the call under a banner of the memory of 9/11 as the rallying cry for their march. Initial numbers put antifascists at at least 30 with PEGIDA et al at only 10. Cops formed a barrier protecting the fascists. At some point a larger group of 20 fascists showed up, with a dozen or so more joining later, and police moved against the antifascists. Toronto City bylaw enforcement officers supplemented TPS.
Antifascists held ground to stop the march from starting despite the aggressive actions of police. Of note, several non-participant members of the public cheered on the counter-protesters against the fascists. At least one antifascist was arrested on phony claims of assaulting prominent white supremacist Eric Brazeau. These actions came after a series of confrontations between antifascists and the Soldiers of Odin, the white supremacist anti-immigrant patrol organization that started in the Nordic countries before expanding over to Canada.
It is worth pointing out that TPS actions came only two weeks after some of their members were photographed, in uniform, with neo-Nazi candidate for mayor Faith Goldy.
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).
The Occupy ICE PDX encampment has been a leader for the Abolish ICE movement across the country, erupting into a permanent protest first and expanding to involved over a hundred tents and hundreds of people practicing direct democracy. While they successfully cleared out the ICE building in Portland at first, DHS officers later snuck back into the building in the night and then arrested 8 protesters who were continuing to block ICE entrances.
Since then, and for the last several weeks, the Occupy ICE PDX encampment has continued as a site of continuous protest. On July 9th, five police entered the camp and, despite pleas from residents, tried to push through a barricade. After they were unable to, they accused a random protester of assaulting them and tackled her to the ground, contorting her limbs and accused her of “resisting arrest.” The video shows that she was being compliant, as well as the officer’s caustic attempt to destroy a peaceful protest camp. A total of three protesters were arrested, and the police claim two officers were injured. In the second video you see them blitz and attack protesters.