Red Flag Express №38
MARCH 19 IN CALGARY

Neo-Nazi demo shut down by anti-racist activists

Neo-Nazi demonstrations have over the past several years grown, particularly in Calgary, Alberta. In 2009, a group called “Blood & Honour” held a large white-pride rally there that attracted a startling number of skinheads and racists and sent small shockwaves throughout Calgary and the Prairies, their brazen vocal attitudes and hate-filled rhetoric startling a population that has convinced itself that the last vestiges of discrimination and racism were all but gone. And while it is true that from many perspectives Canada has managed to avoid the epidemic racial divides that plague our southern neighbour, it doesn’t mean that prejudice, often violent, does not exist here.

The Globe And Mail published an article the day before the rally. It wrote, “Late Saturday morning, a crowd of dozens, perhaps hundreds, will converge along quiet, downtown streets. They’ll wave flags, carry signs and chant slogans, all broadcasting an unmistakable, unsettling message. White pride.”

This prediction was based at least in part to the last white supremacist rally held in Calgary in 2009 in which upwards of a hundred supremacists marched the streets of Calgary and challenged the community’s sense of tranquility and peace. Almost as shocking to many, there also turned up at least as many anti-racist activists who arrived to challenge the fascists’ attempts to spread their hatred openly, which resulted in scuffles and fighting between the two groups.

It seemed they got the message: the next attempt at a public rally in 2010 fizzled into failure thanks in no small part to the courageous actions of these anti-racist activists. By simply showing up, in large numbers, and facing the fascist threat they sent the racists’ ranks scattering into disarray and it wouldn’t be until this year, 2011, that they regained the nerve to poke their heads out.

This time, however, the anti-racists were waiting. Little over a dozen—by some counts, 16—supremacists showed up to show their “pride,” while approximately 200 counter-demonstrators arrived to confront them. Between the two, over a hundred Calgary police officers, some in riot gear, were on hand to “keep the peace” as they claimed. In reality they served as protection for the babbling violent rhetoric and Nazi salutes that spewed from the supremacists’ small ranks.

After the demonstrations many in the media were quick to dismiss the importance of the racist rally, eager to sweep the issue of racism in our society under the rug and maintain the status quo. Many saw the small contingent of racist thugs as inconsequential, a harmless group of angry adolescents and young adults whose bark is worse than their bite. This is a dangerous position to take, and the consequences of inaction have already taken their toll after the 2009 demonstrations. Despite the actions of the anti-racist cause, the Blood & Honour group, and various affiliates and similar white supremacist gangs, have committed assaults, home invasions, intimidation and threats of violence against minorities and anti-racist activists with little legal prosecution. The leader of the Blood & Honour gang, currently serving a paltry 2-month sentence for intimidation and violent threats, has an active warrant in neighbouring Saskatchewan which police there seem uninterested in pursuing. Several parties in the province have complained that rather than a dedicated hate crime unit, the city of Calgary makes do with a single “co-ordinator” who is tasked with stemming the tide of racial crime single-handedly.

With officials seemingly uninterested in combating the threat, it is up to activists like those who rallied on Saturday to fight the white supremacist movement. Most of these activists are young men and women from a variety of backgrounds and many are involved in other aspects of political activism. One such activist is Jason Devine who has been fighting with the Anti-Racist Action Calgary movement against the encroaching tides of white supremacy for several years now. In 2008 Jason Devine’s home, which he shares with his fiancée and 4 children, was the target of a firebomb attack, and last November 2010 five men in black ski masks and combat gear and wielding hammers broke into his home, attacking him and his fiancée and dealing damage to his property. Despite the obvious implications of local white supremacist involvement no charges have been laid. People involved with the anti-racist movement in Calgary believe the attacks were motivated by Devine’s work for the movement and among local white supremacist circles he is considered a top priority target thanks to his tireless efforts.

It is a sad fact that the economic and social problems that affect millions of Canadians—whether this affliction is publicly spotlighted or not—leads to a sub-section of society embracing these violent and harmful ideals. Many of the people involved in the white supremacist movement—the rank and file—are young working-class men in their 20s and 30s, who turn to extremist ideologies thanks in part to the socioeconomic pressures they face on a day to day basis. In a perfect world it would be a simple matter to communicate with these men and women, show them that their enemy is not immigrants and minorities coming to “take their jobs” but the politicians and businessmen who want to exploit those immigrants and minorities by paying them less money to do the same work, and close down factories and rebuild them in impoverished Third World countries where they can hire an army of workers for the same cost as a single Canadian. It is because of this “export of exploitation” that people from impoverished countries seek refuge in countries like Canada and the United States; it seems almost ironic, in fact, that the people living in impoverished countries are immigrating here to escape the exploitation and oppression our own government is helping subjugate them to.

Until the day dawns in which open dialogue can serve as an effective weapon against prejudice and hate, and until the courts decide to take racial crimes more seriously, it is up to activists like those in Calgary and the tens of thousands across Canada to confront racism wherever and whenever it rears it’s ugly head. And it is a struggle that must be maintained, as given even the smallest chance to recover and spread, the racist movement in Canada could be capable of exploding into a far wider, and much more violent, epidemic.

– Correspondence from a reader.
e p D T F s