By Jeff Shantz
Two racist, white supremacist groups, the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam and the Cultural Action Party planned and called for a rally on August 19 at Vancouver City Hall. In the week following the Charlottesville antifascist resistance to white supremacists and the neo-Nazi killing of antifa activist Heather Heyer, the rally posed an important challenge to anti-racist and antifascist organizing in Vancouver.
If making sure the racist rally did not hppen can be considered a victory, then the counter mobilization achieved one. An unscientific consensus of estimates would put the crowd of counter-demonstrators around 4000 all told.
What was most striking was, first, that only a couple of overt racists showed up and/or stayed. The racists clearly were not ready for a fight. Secondly, two open racists, independently of and separated from each other, stayed for most of the event, four hours or so, surrounded by anti-racists with whom they argued the whole time. Police stood guard around the two, in each of their locations guarding them
No open fighting broke out. At least one open racist was chased off and two others were escorted out by police. I saw one racist escorted out by police, after arguing with anti-racists for over an hour. None of the protesters openly challenged the racist Vancouver Police Department and its own particular authoritarian violence.
I witnessed three separate engagements between a crowd of anti-racists and an outspoken racist. The racists who remained seemed to resort to arguments for closing borders and tightening immigration restrictions as ways of couching their racist positions.
Five people were reported arrested for breach of peace, but no word of which side they were on. Two racists were escorted away. One was a Vancouver neo-Nazi, who gave a Hitler salute before being led off site by police.
There were many, perhaps too many speeches. Speakers addressed the white supremacist and settler colonial history of Vancouver and Canada. There might have been a march or something that brought the show of anti-racism out into the public a bit more. Many people seemed to drift off out of boredom, heat, lack of food or water, or a sense that nothing further was developing.
The event was a celebratory gathering for anti-racists and anti-fascists and there were many conversations among strangers. There were open displays of pro-socialist, pro-communist, and pro-anarchist symbolism (all targets of fascist violence historically, of course).
While the racists and fascists, including the boisterous Soldiers of Odin, chose not to come out in the open on this day, we should have no illusions about the ongoing presence, organizing, and mobilization of white supremacists in British Columbia and Canada. Soldiers of Odin are still active and recruiting, especially in the Fraser Valley. They will still come out to confront anti-racists and antifa in contexts where they see the balance of forces in their favor (as at a previous Vancouver anti-racist rally that was attacked by Soldiers of Odin).