Published in The Link online March 10 2016
“Alerta! Alerta! Anti-fascista!” chanted the crowd of protesters as they cornered a portly, balding, middle-aged man and his partner.
“What did you say?” a protester shouted in French as the man filmed with a handheld camera.
“I don’t speak whatever language that is!” the man repeated.
“He’s a fascist!” from the crowd. “I recognize him!”
But then in a flurry of yellow vests and camouflage pants, members of the Montreal police stepped in and rushed the man and his partner away.
This was one scene at a protest organized by PEGIDA Watch Canada in front of the entrance to Ruby Foo’s Hotel nearby Namur Metro on Wednesday evening. Approximately 40 anti-fascists picketed and chanted together through the evening—and questioned guests of the hotel as to their fascist allegiance.
The demonstration was in response to a talk organized by the group “Act! for Canada” and the Jewish Defense League. Paul Weston, the headline speaker, leads PEGIDA’s United Kingdom branch and is a self-proclaimed racist—his political party, Liberty GB, received 418 votes in the 2015 election.
Ruby Foo’s Hotel cancelled the event on Wednesday morning, but PEGIDA Watch Canada decided to gather in protest anyways—in case any Weston supporters appeared.
“That’s why we’re here,” said Jaggi Singh, one of the organizers of the protest, “you should never let nazis have any roots whatsoever.”
After the sympathizer was escorted away by the police, the manager of Ruby Foo’s, Maurice Wong, came to speak to the protesters gathered around the hotel door.
They questioned Wong as to whether it was him who had cancelled the event, and he said that he had. Protesters asked why he didn’t cancel earlier—during what one protester, waving a Soviet flag, said was several weeks of warnings about “Act! For Canada.” Wong said to the crowd that once he realized who the guest was, he took the decision to cancel the event that morning.
“If I knew about the extent a week ago, the decision would have been made,” Wong said to the crowd. “We don’t question every client that calls to reserve. That said, let’s turn the page.”
At one point, Alexandre Paradis, another organizer, exclaimed that he recognized a man walking into the building as a fascist sympathizer.
The man, wearing red, entered the hotel, then left shortly after. He was followed by a group of protesters, and they found him around a corner, smoking a cigarette.
His name was Andy, and he worked for CN Rail. He was waiting for a taxi. He said he didn’t know who Paul Weston was, or what was going on. The group that splintered off returned to the door, where the police established a buffer in front of the doors and the protesters had moved away slightly.
A portion of the growing group of police stepped in as a buffer, and the crowd chanted “la police au service de les riches et les fascistes!”
Hotel guests came and went, each greeted by Singh on a megaphone informing them of the protest’s purpose, and asking if they were staying at the hotel for Weston’s event.
Christine Dandenault, a member of the Marxist-Leninist party toting a picket sign, said it was the Canadian and Quebec governments that promoted racist policies.
“It’s absolutely not the reality,” Dandenault said. “The deradicalization policies, Bill 59, are simply promoting racism and accusations at young people. It’s important to fight that, and to fight the encouragement of racism.”
Paradis said it was the responsibility of citizens to step in when the government allows harmful events to go forward. “We turned six people away without violence, peacefully,” Paradis said. “And there’s about 50 police officers here to welcome us. But there have to be people to denounce groups like that, no matter where they gather.”
Cora LeMoyn, a Muslim woman who was actually singled out for harassment by PEGIDA Quebec’s Facebook group, has been working against PEGIDA for over a year.
“They push hate in an abhorrent way, and it is Muslims that are targeted first,” LeMoyn said. “Especially muslim women. Many women in my community don’t want to go out because they pay the price for the lies of islamophobia. Their veils are pulled. They’re spat on. They’re insulted. And we need to stop that.”
The police presence throughout was heavy, with nearly a dozen cars surrounding the hotel, and with bike officers patrolling between Namur metro along the street and up to the entrance. The protest finished at 7:30 p.m.
Another “Act! For Canada” meeting is to be held in Toronto, on March 10.