Organizers of a “Solidarity Weekend” say hours of peaceful rallying to protest racism trumped a few minutes of violent clashes in Peterborough on Saturday.
For seven hours, hundreds gathered at Confederation Square to demonstrate for peace and to counter what was supposed to be an anti-illegal immigration/anti-Trudeau rally by the Canadian Nationalist Front — a group known for promoting white supremacy.
But the CNF’s rally never took place.
“Peterborough spoke that love lives here,” said Charmaine Magumbe of Community and Race Relations Peterborough.
But for about 10 minutes tension boiled and punches were thrown when a man wearing a Nazi T-shirt arrived in the park. Protesters also blocked a police cruiser when an arrest was made. Some of the protesters covered their faces, concealing their identity.
“The violence was overplayed,” said activist Roy Brady, a member of the Council of Canadians.
“Actual violence took place for about 10 minutes, if that long, and it was because of what we would call an anti-immigration intruder who caused quite a ruckus.”
Peterborough Police Service defends the officers who had to deal with the chaotic scene.
“In my view, our officers handled themselves very professionally and very calmly in a situation that was becoming very dangerous for them,” said Insp. Dan Smith.
The Canadian Nationalist Front’s chairman Kevin Goudreau never showed up to Confederation Square, tweeting it seemed to him unsafe. No was hurt among the hundreds in the streets, but one woman claims she was “manhandled” by police.
“I kept yelling I’m disabled and five cops tackled me,” said Jane Way. “I dislocated my femur and my wrists and my thumb.”
Police are looking into her claim as Solidarity Weekend organizers praise the community’s overall response.
“We do not want hate here,” said Magumbe.
“We do not want a white supremacist group here. It was just really touching to see everybody coming together.”
Added Brady, “It was our answer to what the white supremacists wanted to do.”