Hundreds of protesters descended on downtown Edmonton for the second week in a row on Saturday to protest the United Nations and what organizers refer to as the “global world order.”
The protesters, many of whom donned yellow work vests, were met by a smaller group of counter-protesters, many of whom denounced the anti-globalist demonstrators as racists and fascists. Later in the afternoon, however, the numbers on both sides were fairly equal, according to a Global News crew at the scene.
At least two pushing matches between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators were witnessed by Global News. After the escalation at the rally, police removed at least two protesters and worked to keep the opposing sides apart. It wasn’t clear which side the removed demonstrators were from
At last week’s rally, some of the people in attendance were wearing jackets with Soldiers of Odin patches on them. The Soldier of Odin are a far-right group in Canada.
On Saturday, the demonstrators that Global News spoke with said they aren’t racist. They said they are opposed to the recent UN migration pact which Canada and dozens of other countries recently signed.
“I’m here to protest the UN agreement that Prime Minister Trudeau made and to get Trudeau out of office because he’s not doing anyone any good,” said Neil Van Den Bussche, a protester wearing a yellow vest.
The pact is a sweeping yet non-binding accord meant to ensure safe, orderly and humane migration and to crack down on dangerous and illegal movements across borders.
The debate over the Global Compact for Migration, the first of its kind, has proven to be a pivotal test of the UN-led effort to crack down on the often dangerous and illegal movements across borders.
Saturday’s protest began late in the morning at the Alberta legislature before attendees began marching towards Winston Churchill Square.
A Global News crew at the scene said some of the protesters called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “traitor” and others yelled racial slurs as they walked. Other protesters were heard speaking critically of the news media, and complaining of “fake news.”
“People are getting a little tired of being pushed around and told what to believe and how to believe and the socialist ideas are not for Canada,” Van Den Bussche said.
Adebayo Katiiti told Global News he is a refugee and came to the protest to speak out against what he suggested was cruelty and racism from the opposing protesters.
“I need people to know that hate is just learned and they can unlearn that and adopt love. I am here for love.”
Katiiti suggested other refugees he knows are growing increasingly concerned about how they are seen in Canada.
“Some of them don’t have the courage to come talk but are very depressed… This is not OK.”
The rally was endorsed by a political party, called the National Citizens Alliance, on its website, however, it was not immediately clear if the party organized it.
The NCA’s platform calls for a “no-nonsense immigration policy that puts the well-being and safety of the Canadian people first,” a reduction in taxes and the elimination of the carbon tax and an end to “all voluntary payments to the United Nations and its affiliates.”
The NCA also said its protests are in solidarity with “yellow vests” around the world. The so-called yellow vest movement has resulted in a wave of violent and deadly protests that have rocked France this fall.
Watch below: Police in Belgium deploy water cannons, tear gas against ‘yellow vest’ protesters.
That country’s yellow vest demonstrations began on Nov. 17, to voice discontent with a hike in fuel taxes. As the protests grew, they’ve also become expressions of anger about the high cost of living in France and a sense that French President Emmanuel Macron is detached from workers’ everyday struggles.
It is not clear to what degree, if at all, the Edmonton rallies are linked to events in France, or to what degree the Edmonton protesters’ grievances are aligned with the French yellow vest movement.
“The only connection is that we’re Canadians and we’ve had it right up to here with the stuff that’s going on in Ottawa,” Van Den Bussche said. “We’re going to have more people here next week and the week after.
“The only difference is we’re not going to be like France. We probably won’t have any violence — probably.”
Watch below: A large group of protesters, many of whom donned yellow work vests, gathered in Edmonton on Saturday to protest the United Nations and to air other grievances. They were met by a group of counter-protesters, many of whom denounced the anti-globalist demonstrators as racists and fascists.
Political commentator weighs in on Edmonton’s ‘yellow vest protests’
Chaldeans Mensah, a political scientist at Edmonton’s MacEwan University, said he believes that as long as they remain peaceful, protesting legitimate grievances is important and something that can be healthy for democracies.
“The (yellow vest) protesters may be tapping into something that is… of deep concern — that the voices of ordinary people are being lost as governments sign onto these kind of international agreements,” he said on Saturday. “Of course this is coinciding with similar rallies in France and also in countries like Belgium and the Netherlands. So, I think there is a pattern here.
“My sense is this is really a reaction by people who are disgruntled by a lack of debate and discussion by national governments when they sign on to these global-level agreements on things like migration and climate change.”
Mensah said it’s important for countries to work together to solve major global issues but that dialogue between leaders and citizens of their countries is key.
“I think governments have to be careful not to ignore the necessity of internal debate and I think what we see is a political reaction by people who feel that their concerns have been ignored,” he said.
“I think it would be very dangerous for governments to ignore this kind of groundswell of popular discontent.”
When asked what he thought about counter-protesters showing up to the Edmonton rally and accusing the opposing protesters of holding racist views, Mensah suggested the response was not surprising.
“Here in Canada, apparently there is a perception that these protesters are mainly from the alt-right part of the ideological space,” Mensah went on to say. “So if this is perceived as a narrow protest, with a political or ideological bent on one side of the spectrum, then you’ll see a counter-reaction on the other side… an ideological battle on the left and the right.”
Mensah added that he believes “it could cause political problems down the road” for governments that don’t respond to these types of protests.
–With files from Global News’ Albert Delitala and The Associated Press’ Elena Becatoros