Canada: Protest Turns Violent as Calgary Aryan Guard, Anti-Racism Activists Square Off
Tue, 24 Mar 2009
By Jamie Komarnicki, Canwest News, March 22, 2009
CALGARY – Downtown police called in reinforcements from nearby districts Saturday when a white pride march through Calgary’s core deteriorated into a violent melee as counter-protesters lobbed rocks and tin cans at the group.
The neo-Nazi demonstration drew swift condemnation from a downtown alderman who called the Aryan Guard rally a “completely unacceptable” move by a divisive fringe organization.
“It’s a provocative move by the Aryan Guard to try to engage in a completely unacceptable form of demonstration given the fact that Calgary does not share the values of hate and racism that they’re espousing,” Ald. John Mar said.
Authorities said Saturday’s fracas showed troubling signs of escalating violence between the white supremacists and anti-racist activists.
Onlookers gaped as the confrontation between the two parties brought downtown traffic to a standstill.
Several fist fights broke out and at least two people were treated for head injuries after being hit by the projectiles, although the injuries weren’t serious.
The Aryan Guard march drew heated emotion from activists troubled by the signs of intolerance.
“I think it’s extremely important, any organization that tries to promote hatred, tries to promote a violent ideology . . . they must be opposed,” said Jason Devine of Anti-Racist Action Calgary, a group that spearheaded the counter-protest against the marchers.
More than 400 anti-racist protesters confronted about 60 Aryan Guard.
The Aryan Guard waved white-pride flags and chanted slogans as they zigzagged through the inner city. Their path was blocked at several turns by the raucous anti-racist activists.
At first, 56 downtown police officers tried to control the rowdy throng; an additional 30 on-duty members were later called in for reinforcement. Authorities broke up several fights between the two sides along the way and often formed a human barricade to keep the groups apart.
The level of violence at the protest was troubling, said Calgary Police Service Insp. Rob Williams.
It’s the second year in a row that the two sides have clashed on March 21 — a date recognized as both a white pride world wide day and as a celebration for the elimination of racism.
However, the violence was ramped up at this year’s confrontation.
The protest ended only when the Aryan Guard demonstrators — encircled by jubilant anti-racists held back by police — were ushered onto a city bus and shuttled out of the core to their own transportation.
Aryan Guard member Kyle McKee said the group wanted to “celebrate white pride” during the event. The march, which attracted followers from outside of Alberta, gave the organization exposure, he said.
“We didn’t make it to City Hall, but I think a lot of people will hear about it, and on that part it’s a success.”