Two men have been arrested in the aftermath of a National Citizens Alliance rally and counter-protest on Saturday in Halifax’s Grand Parade.
Four supporters of the NCA – a far-right political party registered with Elections Canada – booked the downtown square for a demonstration, but were met by more than 150 counter-protesters in a series of interactions that ended with police deploying pepper spray into the crowd.
The counter-protest was organized by a group called Halifax Against Hate, which “monitors far-right/fascist movement” in the city. Its supporters followed the NCA demonstrators around the Grande Parade, waving signs supporting immigrants, refugees and Muslims.
The first rally was over in about 30 minutes, and a 34-year-old man was arrested and charged with breaching the peace after knocking the hat off an NCA leader. In a news statement, police labelled that action as an assault.
“Their hate, their Islamophobia, their white nationalism is not welcome in Halifax, it’s not welcome in Canada and it’s not welcome anywhere,” said Scott, who was among the counter-protesters, and preferred not to reveal his last name.
On its website, the Calgary-based NCA says it advocates for a ban on what it calls “political Islam,” and its platform policies include denying immigrants and refugees who pose a so-called “culture threat” entry to Canada.
Its four Halifax delegates returned to Grand Parade around 2 p.m. with a speaker system and sign, according to a statement from Halifax Regional Police. They were swarmed by masked counter-protesters nearly an hour later.
That’s when the second man was arrested.
“One male wearing a mask ripped a sign and took it with him, while other unknown persons assaulted the National Citizens Alliance,” said the statement. “Police intervened arrested the male that damaged the sign and left with the sign.”
The 28-year-old man was charged with unlawful assembly, theft under $5,000, property damage and wearing a disguise with intent.
In the process of arresting the man, the police officer was also swarmed and deployed pepper spray to disperse the crowd. The protesters from both groups eventually left without further incident, and no additional injuries have been reported to police.
Counter-protesters argued the NCA should not have been allowed to be in the Grande Parade in the first place.
Halifax Against Hate said it aimed to share its perspective, which includes welcoming all immigrants and calling Stephen J. Garvey, who leads the NCA, a “white nationalist politician.”
“The city of Halifax and indeed the province of Nova Scotia aren’t taking the lives of black and Indigenous peoples of colour’s safety serious,” said counter-protester Angela Bowden.
“It’s really disheartening when you have a city that grants a permit to a known white nationalist group that puts our lives at risk.”
But according to a statement issued by Halifax Regional Municipality to Global News, the HRM doesn’t have a policy on which individuals, groups or organizations can or cannot book a public space.