Roughly 300 protesters assembled at Philips Square on the evening of Sunday, August 13, for a march against the far-right in response to recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. The previous day, a white supremacist attacked anti-racist and anti-fascist activists who had gathered in Charlottesville to counter-protest a gathering of far-right groups dubbed “Unite the Right.”
Saturday’s attack injured 19 and killed 32-year-old anti-racist protester Heather Heyer. The attack occurred on the second day of demonstrations by far-right groups including the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and Identity Evropa. These demonstrations were met with substantial resistance from counter-protesters.
Several organizers and activists spoke at the Montreal rally on Sunday night. Sam, an American sociologist, said he had been active in the civil rights movement since 1959.
“At various demonstrations we did face the threat of physical violence,” he told the crowd. “In the late 1970s a relative of mine was one of several who was shot by the Ku Klux Klan in a confrontation in North Carolina. I am tired of having this […] go on. We have to defeat the fascists, the racists, and the capitalist system that spawns them.”
A Montreal organizer from the group Solidarity Across Borders also spoke, echoing Sam’s previous statements.
“It’s really important that we talk about racism and fascism,” he explained. “Of course, it kills people who go out to demonstrations like Heather. But it’s also killing people on a daily basis. Police kill people, borders kill people, the whole immigration system, the whole racist capitalist system that we live under kills people – so it’s important to confront that system as a whole.”
“I am tired of having this […] go on. We have to defeat the fascists, the racists, and the capitalist system that spawns them.”
Miriam Daly*, an activist attending the rally, told The Daily, “I’m here to show solidarity towards the anti-racists who were attacked in Charlottesville, […] and also to show […] anti-fascist solidarity because there has been a rise of things in Montreal and Canada as well, like the Students for Free Speech Concordia or the Proud Boys.”
Indeed, it recently emerged that Jason Kessler, the Charlottesville resident who organized the Unite the Right rally, is a member of the Proud Boys, a self-described “Western Chauvinist” organization founded by Canadian far-right activist Gavin McInnes. The Proud Boys made headlines in early July when several members of the Canadian Armed Forces associated with the group disrupted a rally by Indigenous Canadians in Halifax on Canada Day.
It has also been reported that members of the Quebec fascist organization La Meute were present for the Charlottesville far-right gathering. La Meute is planning a protest in Quebec City this Sunday which anti-fascist and anti-racist activists have vowed to counter.
On Sunday night, protesters left Phillips square at about 7:30 p.m. and marched down René Lévesque Boulevard to the U.S. Consulate on St. Alexandre Street. Once there, organizers denounced racist immigration policies such as the United States’ notorious “Muslim Ban” and mass deportations, before chanting “Fuck Trump, fuck hate, America was never great!”
At the helm of the protest was a large “black bloc”, consisting of anti-fascists, anarchists, and members of various other leftist groups like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
The Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) was a constant presence at the protest, though officers appeared less intent on dispersing the gathering than they had been at previous local demonstrations, under the now-defunct Montreal by-law P.6.
“I’m here to show […] anti-fascist solidarity because there has been a rise of things in Montreal and Canada as well, like the Students for Free Speech Concordia or the Proud Boys.”
Following their stop at the U.S. consulate, the protesters continued down St. Catherine street and through the Gay Village where people chanted “Queer and anti-racist!”. At one point, a passer-by heckled the protesters, resulting in a brief scuffle with members of the black bloc.
The most tense episode of the march occurred at approximately 8:45 p.m. when protesters reached the intersection of St. Catherine and Papineau. A dark-coloured pickup truck continued to cross St. Catherine Street at high speed despite being surrounded by marchers, dragging at least one person for several metres. Police immediately surrounded the vehicle and escorted it out of the area. Following this incident, many on social media noted the similarity with Saturday’s vehicular terrorist attack in Charlottesville.
The demonstration largely dispersed before 9 pm.
*Name has been changed