August 22, 2017 10:05 am
Updated: August 22, 2017 10:07 am

Is violence ‘necessary’ to protest racism?

WATCH ABOVE: Quebec activists are debating whether or not holding marches and counter-protests are the best way to effectively retaliate against anti-immigration groups. Global's Phil Carpenter reports.


Anti-fascist activists descended on Quebec City Sunday, saying they wanted to stop a right-wing group called La Meute, who were marching against what they see as a lax Canadian immigration and refugee policy.

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READ MORE: Quebec police say ‘strong possibility of arrests’ following Sunday protest

Aaron Lakoff, one of the counter-protesters, says he went because he thinks La Meute needs to be stopped.

“We wanted to send a really clear message to these people who have fascist sympathies that they’re not welcome to spread their hate,” he said.

He and his group confined La Meute to an underground parking lot for a few hours.

When the black clad anti-facist protesters started marching themselves, things got out of hand.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau condemns intolerant, racist’ rallies, urges trust in immigration system

The protest was quickly declared illegal and, according to Jaggi Singh, one of the anti-fascist organizers, “suddenly at 4 p.m., the police decided to move that group of people, and I refused to move.”

WATCH BELOW: Global News camera grabbed, smashed on ground during heated protests in Quebec City

Singh was arrested and released later that evening.

READ MORE: Anti-fascist counter-protesters clash with police in Quebec City

Some blame the violence, or direct action, on a small portion of the group.

However, there are activists, like Lakoff, who believe violence is sometimes necessary.

“I think it was necessary to create a lot of tension in the streets so that La Meute could not take the space that they wanted,”  he said.

“I understand the rage that people feel right now. Seeing the events in Charlottesville, seeing the rise of neo-Nazis all across North America…radical action must be taken to try to stop that.”

He points out that history is replete with examples of violence being used to put down hate and fascism.

Hate and intolerance, Lakoff explains, are much more violent.

READ MORE: Asylum seekers entering Quebec on the rise: immigration department

Yet others, like Veronica Torres, who works for Carrefour de ressources en interculturel (CRIC) to support immigrants and refugees, think that violence is counterproductive.

WATCH BELOW: Counter-protesters clash with police in Quebec City

“The message gets drowned in a message of violence, which is not appropriate,” she explained.

“If we don’t want people to be violent towards any group, we shouldn’t be violent ourselves.”

Lakoff says he understands the concerns and that constant dialogue is important.

READ MORE: Couillard warns would-be asylum seekers: ‘There is no guarantee’

“We might not all agree on tactics, and that’s fine, but at the end of the day, we are all against racism,” he said, explaining that the aim is to “make racists afraid again.”

Nevertheless, Torres maintains that there are peaceful ways to get the message across.

“You can just march and let the message be known without being aggressive or throwing bottles,” she insisted.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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