“Unity Rally to End White Supremacy” Tackles Issues of Islamophobia, Anti-Blackness, and Colonialism

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October 15, 2017

Demonstrators braving inclement weather during the march. Photograph by Lukas Faust

Hundreds of demonstrators showed up at Queens Park around noon on October 15th to protest against white supremacy. The rally was originally intended to be a modestly sized Facebook event to organize friends who were interested in counter-protesting the Toronto Nationalist Rally but unexpectedly went viral, with over 6000 people indicating online that they would attend and another 12000 interested.

The Toronto Nationalist Rally never happened after the University of Toronto denied them permission to hold the event on campus but its cancellation didn’t stop the counter-protest from gaining momentum.

“The cancellation of the Toronto Nationalist Party was merely a logistics issue for me,” said Shannon McDeez, the organizer of the Facebook event page that sparked the action, told the Toronto Beacon in an email correspondence. “As a current Fellow at U of T, I was impressed to see that they shut down their attempt to rally on campus. However, the fact that they mobilized and posted an event THE DAY AFTER the first Charlottesville protest is confirmation that we have a problem. The political culture of the United States is bleeding into Canada in the form of the empowerment of these bad actors.”

McDeez says that she hopes that this rally will prompt discussions about the existence of white supremacy in Canada and how Canada responds to incidents of hate.

 

The rally is happening during a tense year that includes events such as the shooting at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre and violent clashes at the Charlottesville rally. Statistics Canada reported earlier in June this year that 2015 saw an increase of 5% in the number of police-reported hate crimes, mostly attributed to an increase in incidents directed towards Muslims and Arab/West Asians.

“Islamophobia is white supremacist and Islamophobia is anti-Black,” said Sandy Hudson, a Black Lives Matter organizer, during a speech addressing demonstrators in front of the Ontario Legislative Building. Hudson also criticized Justin Trudeau for “speaking platitudes” to Indigenous peoples at the United Nations while not taking Indigenous issues seriously, the Katheleen Wynne government for not doing away with carding, and the John Tory government for not removing police from schools in racialized areas. Hudson called these “examples of the white supremacist system at work.”

In addition to demonstrating against white supremacy, a press release by the organizers states that their group’s demands include calling on the Canadian government to:

  1. Publicly condemn the executive order by President Trump that bans Muslim visa-holders from five countries and also bans all refugees from entering the United States.
  2. Revoke the Safe Third Country Agreement and eliminate the Designated Country of Origin List to remove barriers to refugee claimants coming from the United States.
  3. End racist, anti-refugee, anti-Black, and Islamophobic exclusion of migrants and refugees, by creating a program for undocumented residents to live without fear of deportation and giving migrant workers permanent status and open work permits.
  4. Rescind all federal legislation that attacks racialized Black and Brown Muslims and refugees, including the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act as well as anti-terror legislation such as Security Certificates and Bill C51.

Following the speeches at Queen’s park, demonstrators proceeded to march along College Street, Yonge Street, and Bloor Street, chanting slogans such as “No white supremacy, yes to humanity”, “No Muslim ban on stolen land”, and “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go.” The rally concluded at 3:11 pm.