Anti-immigration group’s march chased out by anti-racism protesters
A modest march planned by the Montreal chapter of the German anti-islamic, anti-immigration movement PEGIDA was cancelled after hundreds of anti-PEGIDA protesters came out and held their own protest instead.
The counter demonstration was organized by No One Is Illegal.
PEGIDA’s Facebook group said that the absence of security meant they had no choice but to cancel their first public appearance in the city. It was organized to take place along the so-called Little Maghreb stretch of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension—an area predominated by Montreal’s North African population.
A German acronym standing for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, PEGIDA was formed in Dresden last year on a platform highly critical of what it cautions is a dangerous tolerance towards Islamists and more broadly unassimilated immigrants which it sees as dangers to German society. Since then the group has spread to numerous countries in Europe and in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo the group managed to organize marches attended by tens of thousands of members and supporters.
“A group that was uncontroversially fascist and racist was attempting to have a public presence in Montreal,” said Jaggi Singh of No One Is Illegal. “What made this particularly worse is they were trying to have this presence in a predominantly working class immigrant neighbourhood where people are targeted and marginalized in this current climate of Islamophobia. We needed to show them they weren’t going to pass.”
He called the counter demonstration a ‘beautiful convergence of people of different backgrounds, different political stripes and views coming together to oppose Islamophobia and racism.’
“We’re talking about fascists whose political viewpoint is to assert a set of beliefs that discriminate against other people. They have the technical right to gather and we have the right to gather as well, and we weren’t going to let them pass. We weren’t going to let them do what they were going to do,” added Singh, who said the whole ‘political class’ of Quebec denounced PEGIDA yet it was the grassroots organizations that stopped them.
When reached for comment, a PEGIDA Canada’s a spokesperson disputed the claims and said the group was non-racist, non-fascist, and non-violent.
“[PEGIDA] is a grassroots organization, spread by word of mouth to concerned citizens. Our aim is create awareness, and this is happening at this point. People that call Pegida racist/xenophobic have either been coached by the media and/or they have no idea what Pegida stands for,” the spokesman wrote.
The spokesman added: “Canada is a multicultural society, however we feel that the ideology of Islam fights against multiculturalism, as the nature of Islam is one of submission. If safeguards are not put in place, we will find ourselves in the same situation as Europe.”
The group promised it would hold more public protests in the future.
At least one supporter, though, has has his experienced soured by Saturday’s events.
“They are cowards,” said Steve Hammett, who was one of the few people who made it to the protest. He says his experiences with PEGIDA have been mostly negative and that he now believes the group is a mouthpiece for the far right.
Initially approached by Facebook, he intended to meet with like minded individuals concerned about Islamism and instead found it an organization of disorganized ‘racists’ in that ‘of that particular Quebec strain concerned more about whether French is used on their Facebook group and how widely available halal food is than protecting the pillars of western institutions like secularism and tolerance.