Two weeks ago, a member of Antifa Montreal – a branch of an international anti-fascist movement – was attacked by a group of neo-Nazis after leaving an anti-racism bloc party.
For many Montrealers, this recalls similar events from an era of an economic slump in Montreal during the late 1980s and mid 1990s when factories closed and some disempowered workers turned to extremist groups – on both the left and right – as a way to channel their frustration.
Antifa, though, says neo-Nazis are still a problem in East Montreal.
“When Antifa formed three years ago, it was because of a [neo-Nazi] presence in the neighbourhood. People were being intimidated in bars; there were reports of black people being assaulted in the metro. Last year, community space was attacked two nights in a row and had their windows broken,” said John, a member of Antifa.
While Antifa is currently working against the remaining presence of neo-Nazis in East Montreal, John said the heavy lifting was done several years ago by Red and Anarchist Skinheads (RASH). He pointed out that many skinheads are not in fact racist, and resent their association with neo-Nazis.
The Quebec City branch of RASH was quick to point out, though, that the interactions between non-racist skinheads and their racist counterparts is far more complicated then people assume.
“Journalists tend to present us as the left-side counterpart of the neo-Nazis boneheads. They tend to have a rather thin treatment of the subject, just insisting on the spectacular angle of the matter, forgetting the complex political side,” wrote Alex, a member of RASH, in an email.
Their interactions are also not necessarily peaceful in other cities, according to an article in The Mirror, though Antifa Montreal focuses exclusively on non-violent tactics like graffiti.
– Photos and text by Erin Hale