Vancouver mayor calls for peace ahead of anti-Islam rally and counter protest; MP wants event cancelled
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says the city is working with police to make sure there are no violent clashes in Vancouver this weekend.
In the wake of a racist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend, the City of Vancouver is set to hold its own pair of dueling demonstrations between anti-Islam groups and counter-protesters.
LISTEN: City of Vancouver braces for planned anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rally
A Saturday event dubbed the “WCAI Canada/CAP rally” has been re-posted to Facebook after being taken down Tuesday, and lists speakers from several anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups.
That prompted a counter rally, organized by an ad-hoc group calling itself Stand Up to Racism Metro Van.
Robertson is asking for peace this weekend during the two events.
WATCH: Vancouver mayor issues warning about two conflicting demonstrations
“Obviously Vancouver has a troubled history with racism and discrimination that’s part of our history,” said Robertson.
“We’ve been very focused on eliminating it in the City of Vancouver in these recent years. We are focused on being a city of reconciliation and zero tolerance of hatred, racism and discrimination is where Vancouver’s at.”
On Friday, Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies, called on the City to cancel permission for the planned rally by the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI) and the Cultural Action Party (CAP).
In a written statement Davies said it’s clear the event’s organizers are motivated by what happened in Charlottesville, Va and they “intend on spreading hatred and inciting violence.”
Davies believes a strong and clear message must be sent that this will not be tolerated in “our community.” He also said he empathizes with the difficult position the City is in.
“I wholly respect the right of citizens to gather peacefully and express their views,” Davies said. “But these are criminal acts, and I believe the City has the right and an obligation to enforce the law and protect all citizens before someone gets hurt.”
Davies went on the say community leaders need to express clear denunciations of those fomenting hatred against identifiable groups.
“We need to call these people and their ideas what they are: racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic and misogynist. There is no place in our society for them, and we need to back up that sentiment with action,” Davies said.
Vancouver Police Sgt. Jason Robillard said Wednesday that police are prepared for the possibility of violence, but that free speech is protected.
He said officers at the scene will be making the distinction about whether that protected speech crosses over into hate speech.
“We have to assess, sometimes at a very high rate of speed, what that means and make quick decisions so that we can make sure that the public is safe. But we do like to be prepared and we are making preparations.”
The VPD has been criticized by protesters who say they didn’t do enough to stop members of the allegedly anti-immigrant group the “Soldiers of Odin” disrupting an anti-racist protest in March.
Meanwhile, organizers of the counter-protest said they are taking measures to keep the event peaceful.
“We are going to be advising everybody to stay in groups. We’re also reaching out with the peacekeepers right now, which is a volunteer organization of people who are trained in de-escalation, and combat if necessary,” said Isabelle Rowe-Codner with Stand-Up Racism Metro Vancouver.
However, not everyone in the activist community is supporting the counter-protest. Ana David with Latinos in Action is calling on the mayor to shut down the event — which she says only draws attention to racists, and could turn violent.
“I think he should be stopping the rally alltogether. It is about hate speech, it is about violence, and it is about white supremacy. Hmm, what an interesting point. White supremacy, from a white man who happens to be a mayor of the city.”
More than 2,000 people have said they plan to attend the counter-protest, scheduled for 12:45 p.m. on Saturday, according to a Facebook post from the group.
Twenty people have said they will attend the original rally, which is slated to begin at 2 p.m.
-With files from Simon Little, Jeremy Lye and Emily Lazatin, CKNW
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