SHAFAQNA – Over 700 Vancouverites are expected to converge at Vancouver City Hall this Saturday (August 19) to protest a gathering planned by a group of Islamophobic, racist, and anti-immigrant activists.
Hosted by local ad hoc committee Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver, the counter-protest was organized in response to a rally publicized on Facebook by the World Coalition Against Islam, a Canadian anti-Muslim group, and the Cultural Action Party, a B.C. political party that aims to preserve “Canada’s traditional identity” with anti-immigration policies.
According to the event page, WCAI founder Joey De, who has referred to refugees and other immigrants as “sewage”, and CAP founder Brad Saltzberg, who has led campaigns against Asian-Canadian politicians such as Meena Wong and Olivia Chow, are scheduled to speak. The Soldiers of Odin, an anti-immigrant street patrol group that disrupted an anti-racism rally in Vancouver earlier this year, will also be present.
“We’ve been keeping an eye on various white supremacist groups operating in Vancouver for a litte while now,” Isabelle Rowe-Codner, one of a handful of organizers of the Oppose Racists in Metro Vancouver rally, told the Straight by phone. “And we thought that, with this show of force they’re going to be doing, it would be ideal to have a counter-rally so that our voice on this issue can be louder.”
Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver is asking attendees to arrive at Vancouver City Hall at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday, just over one hour before members of the far-right groups are set to arrive. The rally is billed as a “peaceful counter protest” and, therefore, supporters are encouraged to bring signs that “counter white supremacy and racism in our community and promote inclusivity of those affected by it,” said Rowe-Codner.
Materials will be available onsite so that protestors may make signs and other print messaging together. In addition, a lineup of academics, activists, and community workers will share remarks. “Our main message right now is that ‘Hate speech leads to hate crime’,” Rowe-Codner added. “And so, while denouncing hatefulness and bigotry, we also want to promote inclusivity and tolerance.”
Although, at the time of writing, only nine people have hit “going” on the WCAI/CAP rally’s Facebook page—which, in the past week, has been deleted and re-published to the site multiple times under different hosts—Rowe-Codner noted that it’s unclear how many people will attend since such hate groups typically draw from their network of supporters rather than appealing to the larger public.
Regardless of the xenophobic event’s attendance, she stressed that it’s important for Vancouverites to show strength in numbers. “If we just sit back and let this hatefulness grow, it will,” she said, referring to the recent white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one dead and many others injured. “And so we need to make sure we can stand up against it now, so we don’t have to stand up against it when it’s a lot bigger.”
In June, the WCAI attempted to hold an anti-Islam gathering in Calgary, but were met with more than a hundred peaceful protestors. They were also denied a special event permit by the City of Calgary at the time, who deemed that the function “espoused hatred”.