Islamophobic protest sees clashes
Far-right protesters and anti-fascists clash at anti-muslim protest
On Saturday March 4, local far-right groups rallied in response to a national callout issued by the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCCC) to oppose motion M103. The motion in question would condemn Islamophobia and track incidents of hate crimes against Muslims.
While the protest had been called for nationwide by the CCCC, the rally was mainly organized in Montreal by La Meute, a far-right group founded by Islamophobic exmilitary members, and now counting thousands of supporters online. Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEDGIDA) Quebec also made an appearance, along with non-affiliated racist skinheads. The protest that took place in Montreal had a distinctly neo-nazi character, which distinguished it from the more generally conservative make up of the protests organized in Toronto and Ottawa.
Despite the group’s size online, only around 100 fascist protesters rallied, with their ranks slowly increasing as they began their march at Place Émilie- Gamelin at 10:30 a.m.. They made their way towards Montreal’s City Hall, while a few anti-fascist protesters fol- lowed them and attempted to disrupt the march by throwing rocks at the far-right demonstrators.
Their contingent arrived at the official rally location at 11 a.m., and was immediately confronted by a rapidly growing number of anti-fascist demonstrators, many of whom belonged to groups such as Antifa, the Revolutionary Student Movement, the Concordia Student Union, The Collectif de Resistance Anti-raciste de Montréal.
Several scuffles occurred in the first hour, with far-right protesters charging at the anti-fascists holding banners, and being beaten back, before the police separated the two groups. The anti-fascist presence gradually grew to up to at least 300 protestors, and was adamant in shutting down the far-right rally, despite heavy riot police presence protecting the far-right protest.
Anti-fascist chants such as “Say it loud, say it clear, Muslims are welcome here!” and “Nazi scum off our streets” garnered considerable public support. Anti-fascist protesters burned a Quebec flag with confederate symbolism in the plaza.
“Just like Islamophobia is the current conveyor of hatred against Arabs and migrants, the reactionaries will find other banners to rally behind,” said Mouvement étudiant révolutionnaire in a statement to The Daily.
By 12:30 p.m., the far-right rally started its way back to Place Émilie-Gamelin, which prompted the counter protestors to attempt to follow them and shut them down. The police set up lines to block the counter-protesters path, and following a scuffle between anti-fascist demonstrators and the police, anti-fascist protesters decided to run up St-denis Street to hopefully catch up with the far-right demonstration. In the ensuing hour and a half, anti-fascist pro- testers repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to get past police lines.
Finally, by 2pm, the anti-fascist march arrived at Emily Gamelin, which had been entirely evacuated by the far-right demonstrators, who demobilized in the BERRI-UQAM Metro station, so as to avoid targeting. To further prevent identification, they abandoned their signs and several flags, which anti-fascist protesters proceeded to burn in the street.
“The counter protest against La Meute was both necessary and empowering,” a protester who wished to remain anonymous told The Daily. “Fascism and racism have no place in our society and they cannot be allowed to organize on the streets. Direct action against the organized far-right is the only way to ensure that they hatred and bigotry does not become normalized and inflict violence on those they see as ‘undesirables.’”