Toronto: Anti-PEGIDA after-action report

From the Toronto IWW General Defence Committee Local 28

On Saturday May 4th, 2019, PEGIDA Canada (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) – the anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, white nationalists, along with their collaborators – assembled for a rally and a march outside Staples’s University and Armoury location just steps away from City Hall with alarming numbers yet again. The fact they did this on Star Wars day out of all days is unforgivable.

They were joined by militant far-right hate groups armed with knuckled gloves, knives, extendable batons and more, eager to use violence to promote their beliefs, including the Canadian Nationalist Party, Sons/Wolves of Odin, Proud Boys, Northern Guard, Canadian Yellow Vests, and the Jewish Defense League, just as they have for virtually every month for the last four years.

Their last rally occurred on March 23rd, just one week after a fascist, white nationalist, anti-Muslim terrorist massacred 50 Muslims and injured many more at two mosques in New Zealand. They were met with an overwhelming number of anti-fascist (if you oppose and condemn this attack, you’re an anti-fascist) counter protestors that were able to effectively shut down their platform and blocked them from marching in the streets of Toronto. Despite what they claim, PEGIDA’s message and ridiculous notions of “creeping Jihad” in Canada based on nothing but racism, conspiracy theories and hatred are all complicit in attacks like the one in Christchurch.

On Saturday, PEGIDA and their alt-right militant thugs showed up with a large contingent and hid behind their state-funded police and barricades. They were met once again by local communities and orgs intent on shutting them down and preventing them from marching in the streets.

Despite some of their members on Facebook publicly posting an offer of $500 to anyone willing to commit violence against anti-racist activists on Saturday, police from 52 division and the PSRT (riot squad) unit immediately began to forcefully shove us back across the street from them and put up more barricades as a show of force and to set the tone for the day. The message was clear that the police were intent upon defending and allowing PEGIDA to march with their message and were not afraid of using brutal tactics or violence to allow them to do so.

The police were not there to defend free speech laws. In Canada hate speech is outlawed and is not protected by free speech laws in the charter of rights. There can be no mistake that PEGIDA’s message is nothing but outright racist, Islamophobic hate speech, and by protecting PEGIDA, the police are complicit in giving them a platform for hate in the streets of Toronto.

After a very intense start to the day, the counter protestors made up of local anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-hate groups and allies, settled in for a long afternoon of vocal resistance, announcements, declarations and camaraderie in direct opposition to PEGIDA. Unfortunately, turn out on the counter protester side was much lower than the last rally. It’s worthy of note that the turnout was more than double immediately following the Christchurch attacks a month ago. It seems like many folks seem to only be outraged or alarmed enough to show up in protest if there’s a mass tragedy to prompt them. To that crowd, we want to say that this kind of racism and hate is ongoing – it doesn’t just stop when the news stops covering it and needs to continuously be opposed by any means necessary on an ongoing basis. This kind of hatred inspires attacks to come. It’s not enough to be against racism; one must be actively anti-racist to make a difference. Racism and the notion of white supremacy is deeply-rooted systemically in Canada and across the globe. It’s insidious and to many, it’s not overt enough to do anything about it, but make no mistake, white supremacy is rampant in 2019 at the highest levels trickling down to every fibre of society.

Hateful chants and rants about how “Canada is a Christian nation being destroyed by Muslims and immigrants” from the right were drowned out by any means at our disposal. Rhythms of resistance were on hand to keep our momentum up to add to the cacophony of noise.

We did notice that the far-right have started to evolve with their signage and tactics. There were signs and chants that mimicked some of ours, except without a hint of irony on their end. This shouldn’t come as a surprise with the “but my freeze peach” and “facts not feelings” crowd.

At one point in the afternoon, the far-right gleefully took to burning a Quran in broad daylight. Their attempts were quite pathetic and laughable as they were clearly having a lot of trouble actually succeeding in it, highlighting how pathetic their hatred truly is.

When it was time for them to march, protestors made up from all walks of life in solidarity with Muslims and immigrants, stormed the police barricades to get in front of the racists to deny them their platform. With linked arms and beating drums of resistance – despite the attempts of the police – the far-right was quickly stopped on University Avenue before they could march any further through the streets with their hateful banners and speeches.

Any further attempts at continuing the march were thwarted and we settled into an extended standoff with the racists. Eventually, after one far-right chud was arrested for throwing a smoke bomb the police started to shamefully escort them away in small groups. It’s funny how they’re so intent on proving how tough they are and how eager they are to scream taunts of violence while they’re clearly hiding behind a solid wall of armed riot police.

Despite being led away with the conditions that they disperse and go home, the chuds reassembled at the bottom of the street and a group of Proud Boys and Canadian Yellow Vests crossed the road and made it to Queen’s Park for a pathetic display of bigotry and hatred with police protection.

This kind of hatred has no place in the streets of Toronto (let alone anywhere in the world). It’s also not a new thing. Racists and bigots have been empowered to publicly and brazenly flaunt their beliefs again. Misplaced anger and hateful propaganda spewing forth all across the Internet have emboldened them to organize in secret and publicly once again. They must continue to be opposed in any way possible. It’s not enough to just not be racist anymore. If you’re not contributing to combating white supremacy or racism, you’re complicit in upholding and propagating it.

Despite our lower numbers than last month and very real danger to ourselves – our determination, co-ordination, solidarity, and action resulted in a clear victory over the racists yet again. Victory in the sense that we shut down their platform despite the overwhelming odds, hatred and numbers. We say it’s victory in a sense because we haven’t won the fight. That fight is ongoing and is increasingly becoming more and more important as the right amass more support and power from the grassroots all the way up to the highest levels of office and power.

We don’t enjoy having to do this every month. We don’t enjoy having to actively combat hate in the streets but we do so out of necessity and we always need more folks willing to stand up to fascists and racists until all their platforms are taken away and the state stops condoning and sanctioning their movements.

We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks and love to all the organizations, communities and comrades that put aside their fear and rallied together on Saturday to stop the racists. Every single person there should feel proud of what they did on Saturday.

If you’re interested in joining us to combat racism, oppression, imperialism, capitalism and fascism, please reach out to the page or to be directed to an org that fits.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

7 thoughts on “Toronto: Anti-PEGIDA after-action report”

  1. Organizing and ‘mobilizing’ is all about moving away from the ‘cold-call’, tactical sort of operations you describe — to a higher, more permanent form of class struggle; i.e.: the sort of ‘mobilization’ which the anarchists have had far less success with, historically, than marxist communists — who *operate* on the very principle of organizing.

    I highly suggest you-all ‘mobilize’ alongside other groups which do _not_ make such a fetish out of individualistic, ad hoc activity…

    1. Which ‘other groups which do not make such a fetish out of individualistic, ad hoc activity’ would you suggest we organize alongside?

      1. Anonymous says:
        May 13, 2019 at 10:59 pm

        > Which ‘other groups which do not make such a fetish out of individualistic, ad hoc
        > activity’ would you suggest we organize alongside?

        Why, all progressive groups — representing people of any economic class — which have an organized presence in the World, outside of such usual, un-organized, ad hoc assembly which we’re all so mind-numbingly used to (you want specific names? On that note: already some anarchists writing for this site are openly shitting all over the local Hamilton [neo-]maoist RCP, for some ‘principled’ reason or other (it gets old, you know…). In any case: the latter ‘mob-of-individuals’ approach to classwar is simply the _default_ mode most people fall back on, in lieu of some other praxis which is more structured and powerful and purposeful. Ad hoc ‘flash mob’ assembly and dispersal is not something to glorify and fixate on as a goal, or anything like that (being a mere tactic, in and of itself). People actually need to have available some communal ‘class-for-itself’ structure, with which they can begin to protect themselves and their community from our oligarchic class Enemy and its State Apparatus goons. So: worry about possible here-and-now really-existing communist classless relations later, OK? AFAIC, anarchists have never convincingly explained how this necessary objective difference between the circumstances of Today, and those of The Future, should be so decisively waved away as being already essentially irrelevant to today’s material Human social relations.

        It’s not really hard to understand this need for serious class-based organizing, OK?. AFAIC, it takes willful denial to NOT see the positive aspects of being permanently organized, in the interim — whether anarchists want to (unhelpfully) label such as being ‘authoritarian’ or whatever (that being a VERY weak, voluntarist, ultimately Idealist/subjective — and un-dialectical — construct AFAIC, frankly — and more worthy of the likes of Nietzsche and other bourgeois thinkers, than of Karl Marx & Co.).

        Cutting to the chase: any organizing doesn’t necessarily _have_ to be ‘hierarchically’ structured either, OK? In fact — no proletarian organization should be structured in any such way, at all, should it? And on this [IMO glaring and obvious] essential point — we should all be more or less in agreement, right..?

        1. This is public, on the Hamilton Against Fascism’s Tracebook page, so I can share this: every Saturday, starting on the 25th of this month, 1030, City Hall (71 Main St W.): a dialogue of sorts, if possible, with those who wear ‘yellow vests’ (and yet are, too, as human as you and I, fearful of what they apparently stand to lose, and all the rest of that).

          I should add that Canadaland put out an article on the yellow vests and their tactics, so as we are aware and come to these events with wide-open eyes:

          1. Anonymous says:
            May 24, 2019 at 3:49 am

            ‘… a dialogue of sorts, if possible, with those who wear ‘yellow vests’ (and yet are, too, as human as you and I, fearful of what they apparently stand to lose, and all the rest of that).’

            Anonymous here brings up an important point which any advanced consideration of classwar tactics must address: the [logical, political, social] *requirement* to NOT unnecessarily, immediately attack — physically, verbally or intellectually — people who are not necessarily hard-core supporters of fascist organizing and violence. And ‘nuance’ is not even necessarily required here, either: because if neo-nazis are coming to break heads — that’s essentially the ONLY thing on their mind; and then a measured RESPONSE is called for.

            And so then — *WE* can play the ‘injured party’. Just like the Pigs are trained to do… And THEN people can fight fascists with a clear conscience — and a strategy which WORKS.

            Remember: these misled people (who aren’t necessarily part of fascist gangs) ARE actually looking to create an ACTUAL ‘gilets jaunes’ movement in Canuckistan. **So SOME form of dialog with them is actually required**. THINK about that…

  2. One little noted difference with the March 23rd one is that in the lead-up to it there was a popular Twitter thread days before about Yellow Vests & Faith Goldy going to a Christchurch vigil in MAGA hats to harass people. The thread’s last tweet encouraged people to attend the counter-demo against PEGIDA, getting hundreds of retweets.

    A small boost like that can mean a lot. While I’m not in much of a position to criticize, the Toronto anti-fascists are lacking when it comes to online material and promotion. TAF barely even checks its Facebook page (though their graphics are cool). Toronto GDC is more responsive but the few times they promote the event can get lost in all the leftbook memes (and at the time there were more posts about the Queen’s Park guillotine). I see people in the comment sections asking where the event even happened. Neither use Twitter or other platforms, at least as effectively as they could, even on North Shore it took me to list the event a couple days prior.

    1. A strategy based on mobilizing will always be a bit of a crap shoot. Sometimes, it’s useful to call counter-rallies at a different location than the far-right rally, so that you can gauge numbers before getting involved in a situation. Then, if you have a small group, you at least can have the element of surprise if you decide to do something, like try to shut down a sound system or block an intersection, or even just make noise. Losses in this kind of work can be extremely serious and its better to avoid them and let some idiots march one time than to set people up to get hurt, doxxed, or demoralized in an unwinnable encounter.

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