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Activists shut down bigots in Toronto

Community members protest hate in Toronto
By: 
Brian Champ

February 25, 2019

The sun was shining on Saturday February 23rd in Toronto, but that wasn't the only reason to smile in the city: grassroots activists faced off against the forces of hate, twice in one day, and won both times.

Anti-fascist activists were already organizing to oppose a rally called by Pegida, an anti-Islam group transplanted from Europe, near Toronto’s city hall.  Antifa group Toronto Against Fascism called a counterdemo and anti-fascist activists were mobilizing people from across the city to attend.

But on the day, information came to light that neo-nazi sympathizer and islamophobe Faith Goldy would appear in front of an Islamic bookstore in the east end of the city for an event called "Yellow Vest Protest: Protect Borders". On very short notice, activists in the east end concerned about this issue, including members of East Enders Against Racism, pulled together a counter-demonstration of 40 to 50 local residents of all ages, holding home made signs with anti-hate messages. 

We sang along with Pete Seeger to "We Shall Overcome" and much support was received from pedestrians and passing motorists and streetcars.

To top it all off, Faith Goldy and her band of racists never showed up. This is a victory, even though we'll never know if she really intended to come out or not because a core of east end Toronto residents have shown they are committed to opposing hate in their community and will mobilize numbers on short notice. And with Goldy getting 25,000 votes in the recent mayoralty race, there is no room for complacency.

After the east-end rally, a number of activists then crossed the city to join the counter-demonstration against Pegida.

The Pegida movement in Germany mobilized thousands of people around islamophobic ideas to oppose accepting refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

Here, those taking on the name have been unable to grow their movement to broader forces, so their rallies and marches in Toronto have been small. However, they have attracted numbers of outright fascists and nazis.

On September 8th of last year, 50 to 60 of this mixed bag of racists, fascists and nazis were marched down Bay St. by the police, who vastly outnumbered both sides. On that day, the counterprotest forces were too small to keep them from marching at all, but put up enough resistance to force police to keep the march short.

Since then, Pegida rallies have lost momentum, with only 30 on November 12th at Mel Lastman Square leaving them unable to take the street.

The same number turnout out on February 23rd while a much larger group of counterprotesters drowned out their attempts to spread their hate with chants and, at one point, a rousing chorus of Solidarity Forever. Again, Pegida and their Nazi hangers-on were unable to march.

A cheer went up when the Pegida group dispersed without marching, and everyone could go back to enjoying the remainder of a sunny Sunday afternoon.

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