Following the explicitly anti-Muslim demonstration held on March 4, on April 23 some of the same far right forces tried a different approach, calling for a demonstration against the governing provincial Liberal Party, taking care to not include anything about race or Islam in any of their materials, and telling people not to bring any racist signs or wear anything identifying them as members of their orgs (Soldiers of Odin, La Meute, etc.). On the 23rd between 200 and 300 people attended this demonstration that had been called for and organized by the far right. There was a smaller counter-demonstration, which quickly became fragmented. Below is a contribution from two people who attended, and some suggestions for what needs to be done as we move forward.
Quick analysis of the anti-fascist counter demo Montreal April 23
There were not many anti-fascists this time. Maybe 75, despite it being (or because it was) a beautiful, warm, sunny day. (It was hard to tell exactly how many were there, because most of them dispersed in an attempt to get around the police blockades, but were unsuccessful.)
There were about 300 right-wingers and fascists. They were told not to and did not bring any racist or Islamophobic signs. They had no signs, shirts, or obvious identification that any of them were members La Muete or Soldiers of Odin, for example. The speakers/organizers were not those who addressed the previous demo. There were a lot of Quebec fleurs des lys flags.
The initial fascist ‘security’ group, which showed up an hour early, were mostly masked, helmeted, and carrying clubs to hold their flags. They were respectful to the police, and the police were in turn friendly to them. At one point, a number of cops huddled for about five to ten minutes with the putative leadership of their group. None of them were disarmed by the police, who usually take sticks away from anti-capitalist demonstrators. Several police told us, when asked, that their clubs were not illegal “as long as they didn’t hit people with them.”
Several times throughout the demo, the fascists chanted “Merci à a police!” However, at the end, outside of the Premier’s Montreal office on McGill College, the police quickly and firmly surrounded them on three sides, effectively bringing their demo to an end—possibly not taking any chances with these guys.
For a couple of years, we anti-fascist counter-demonstrators won by vastly outnumbering the fascists, and so we didn’t have to plan to do anything at the counter-demo, other than show up.
But March 4th in front of City Hall, our weakness in not planning was evident, as the larger number of rightists and fascists, with their police escort, simply marched east, while almost all of the anti-fascists present gathered behind a police line west of them. And they were blocked at that point.
Sunday, most of the anti-fascists again!, gathered behind a police line on Ste-Catherine and were blocked, while the fascists who first assembled in the Place de Spectacles, marched freely south in front of them, and made a semi-circle to the Premier’s Montreal office on rue McGill College. A few of us stayed with the fascists to the end of their 45-minute march. Only then did we see twenty or so anti-fascists who briefly showed up again (and were then blocked and run off by the riot police).
At this point, it is clear that simply asking people to show up to counter-demonstrate the fascists is inadequate.
It is time for the anti-fascists to practice more effective street tactics, for instance:
– arriving with clear shared objectives and a good understanding of the geographical terrain the face-off will occur on;
– making plans to evade police blockades;
– forming small mobile groups;
– better internal communication: e.g., having scouts who roam around and can report what is going on out of sight to provide said small mobile groups with some guidance;
– not everyone can or should engage directly with the fascists and the police in the street—well-organized non-violent direct action, blockades, disruptions, or street propaganda, and other ways to counter/embarrass the fascists are also vital—a coordinated combination of tactics will facilitate both the growth of a movement and its effectiveness;
– providing medical and legal support, and making sure that the anti-fascists know how to access either a medic or legal support, if worse comes to worse;
– providing jail support for those who get arrested (when any of us are arrested, some people should mobilize to maintain a presence wherever they are being held; this should be part of the preplanning), and emotional support for those who could use some care;
– providing a debrief session to analyze what happened, what did and didn’t go well, how people feel about it, how were decisions made, and what could be done better the next time.
–Two People Who Attended the March 4 and April 23 Anti-Fascist Counterprotests