Thousands protest against anti-Islam, anti-immigration rally at Vancouver City Hall
Vancouver City Hall was the site of opposing rallies on Saturday.
A group supporting racial tolerance gathered in the early afternoon just ahead of a demonstration by anti-Islam activists at 2 p.m.
An event dubbed the “WCAI Canada/CAP rally” had been re-posted to Facebook after being taken down Tuesday, and listed speakers from several anti-immigration and anti-Muslim groups.
Brad Salzberg with the Cultural Action Party said Saturday’s protest wasn’t about supremacy.
“It’s not about supremacy, I don’t believe in racial supremacy. We are concerned about Islamic ideology or Sharia law becoming entrenched in our society as we have witnessed in Western European countries.”
An estimated 4,000 people attended a counter-rally at City Hall that was organized by an ad-hoc group calling itself Stand Up to Racism Metro Van.
Signs reading “live with love” and “diversity = strength” were spotted throughout the packed crowd as speakers talked about tolerance and the need for a more inclusive society.
Rae Figursky with Stand up Against Racism Metro Vancouver said the rally was about standing up for the values in the community.
WATCH: Anti-immigration, anti-Islam rally and counter protests planned for Vancouver Saturday
“It’s about saying, ‘This isn’t what I agree with. This is not my community.'”
Speaking at the event, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson asked for people to reach out with love, not violence.
“Reach out to those that aren’t there yet, who don’t have that understanding. Reach out with a hand, reach out with respect and love and understanding. Don’t reach out with a fist. Don’t lower ourselves to that.”
City councillor Kerry Jang was also on hand to witness the crowd at City Hall on Saturday.
“Thirty-seven years ago when I found my first piece of racist literature I was going to school somewhere and I found it and I was scared and I was petrified,” he said.
“I was angry and upset. There was nobody around. Thirty-seven years later, here we are. And we have hundreds of people… coming and for the first time I felt so supported and that diversity is key to the city. It’s a celebration of diversity and inclusiveness. There’s no place for hate in the City of Vancouver.”
WATCH: Vancouver mayor issues warning about two conflicting demonstrations
The Vancouver Police Department said Saturday that the rallies disrupted traffic in the area, closing West 12th Avenue from Main Street to Cambie Street. They said officers made five arrests for breach of the peace and two people were escorted away from the rally to prevent a disturbance.
– With files from Amy Judd, Paula Baker, Kyle Benning and The Canadian Press
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