One officer was quoted saying he saw "two sides of the same coin" at the event.
Hatewatch is a new column that will run bi-weekly, tracking the rise of hate groups and their activities in and around Toronto.
Earlier, we introduced you to this new column and gave a brief overview of some of the hate groups gathering at regular rallies around the city. This brings us to last Saturday’s rally, which was organized by Ronny Cameron.
Cameron calls it an anti-Trudeau rally. He’s trying to soften the movement’s image, to bring groups together, and to put on a facade of respectability. In one Facebook post, he asks people to stop saying overtly racist things because it makes them look bad. Now, he wants to turn the anti-Muslim movement into an anti-Trudeau movement.
Cameron claims the rally was a success. To be sure, this was one of the first times they had the same numbers as the anti-fascists. But, it definitely didn’t soften their image. Instead, this was the first big coming out for some of the worst white supremacists in Toronto.
The anti-fascists showed up first and took up space in the square, waiting for Cameron’s event to start. There were about 175 of them. Cameron arrived with a group of 10 that included neo-Nazis like Winston Smith (not his real name). One guy held a red flag with the black sun and a maple leaf on it. The black sun is a neo-Nazi symbol almost as infamous as the Iron Cross. Somebody arriving later wore a T-shirt with the Othala rune, a common white supremacist symbol.
Anti-fascists tried to block the group from taking up the space in front of the City Hall doors. They held a horizontal banner in front of them to block Cameron’s group. They held the line when they were pushed—until the police stepped in. When an officer wasn’t able to yank the banner away from the anti-fascists, the cop next to him punched one of the anti-fascists in the face. The line collapsed, and at least one anti-fascist was arrested. Four people were charged in total.
Toronto police Staff Sgt. Chuck Konkel, who ran for the Conservative Party of Canada in the last three federal elections, later told CBC News that the groups are “two sides of the [same] coin.”
Other groups arrived, including Sandra Solomon and some of the regular anti-Muslim crowd. But, it was clear that some of the anti-Muslim groups had stayed home, likely a result of infighting between Cameron and others that’s been happening in the Toronto scene.
Cameron’s rally, maybe 40 people at this point, was surrounded by police and anti-fascist activists.
This rally was also the first Toronto appearance for a new group called the Northern Guard. The Northern Guard is trying to unite extreme right wing groups across Canada, and promises to be the “front line” at demonstrations.
The Northern Guard and Ottawa Proud Boys showed up and walked into the anti-fascist group from behind, trying to shove their way through. The police weren’t prepared for this. The anti-fascists pushed back. The Ottawa group couldn’t reach Cameron’s group right away, then the police let them join from the side. For the first time at one of these rallies, horse-mounted officers arrived and held position next to the groups.
The sides had about equal numbers at this point. They had heated arguments across the police line. CP24 interviewed Cameron, who said it was “just an anti-Trudeau rally” and that they are “obviously not” racist. He said he was very happy with the media coverage.
Travis Patron, head of the white-nationalist Canadian Nationalist Party, also made an appearance. In August, Patron tried to hold a rally on the University of Toronto campus, sparking counter-protests. The rally didn’t happen.
A man with a megaphone was yelling, “Say no to Sharia law! Say no to globalism! Say no to communism! Say no to Islamism! Say no to feminism!” Another man held a sign saying, “Canada will be turned into hell and all other nations that turn away from the HOLY BIBLE.” Next to him was somebody holding a Christian flag, and another person with a sign saying, “LGBT agenda at war with free speech.” Later, the crowd took up the chants, “Long live President Trump!,” and “Deus Vult”—it’s a call for a religious crusade, which means “God wills it” in Latin.
When it was all over, the right-wing extremists were escorted out by the police—right through piles of horseshit left by the horse cops.
This rally marks an important change. This is the first time the white supremacists have been so open, and the first time they stood on the front lines of a demonstration.
On Sunday, Cameron posted on Facebook: “Big thanks to Winston Smith and his crew for helping get me into the square.” Cameron also thanked Devon Huxtable. In a video, he calls them patriots.
Smith, Huxtable, and their crew will say they aren’t Nazis. They identify as white, or European, nationalists. Earlier this month, Huxtable posted “(((you))) [Jews] will. Not. replace. Us.!!!!!!!!” in the Students for Free Discourse Facebook page. That’s what the white supremacists chanted in Charlottesville, marching past a synagogue, carrying tiki torches. (Update: Devon Huxtable says he wasn’t at the rally in a political capacity and that his online comment was “satire.”) In one post, Smith says: “Generation Zyklon will save us do not worry.” Zyklon B is a pesticide that was used in gas chambers during the Holocaust. Smith’s Facebook profile pic says: “I support ethnostates.” Cameron commented, “Would me and my girl be welcomed into your preferred ethnostate? :P I love the post even though I don’t think I agree with it. I 100% support free speech though, and I totally respect the balls! Haha :P”
While not every person in the anti-Muslim movement will endorse the white supremacists, they defend each other and amplify each other’s voices. In a show of either extreme ignorance or support, they continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with real Nazis.
Evan Balgord is a freelance journalist and a researcher on right-wing extremist groups in Canada. Follow him on Twitter @ebalgord. Video was provided by Dylan Hunt-Weeks. Follow him on Instagram @dylan.huntweeks.