EDITOR’S NOTE: Global News previously mislabeled a group that opposed the anti-racism peace walk. Additional context has been added. We regret the error.
Surrounded by the watchful eyes of RCMP officers, two rallies — separated by 100 metres — were held in Red Deer’s Coronation Park on Sunday, following a protest that escalated to violence in the city on Sept. 20.
One group — with people from Black and Indigenous Alliance Alberta and Red Deer Against Racism — held a peace walk that about 150 people attended; the other had a barbeque of about 30 people.
The opposing group ended up at city hall, but once the anti-racism group walked there too, a shouting match occurred. RCMP members had to step in, separating some of those who attended the barbeque from those involved the peace march.
Kisha Daniels, co-founder of Black and Indigenous Alliance Alberta, organized the peace walk in response to white supremacists crashing the Sept. 20 anti-racism protest.
“We decided to hold a peace walk today to bring peace to our city and a message that Red Deer largely is not the way it’s being painted. It’s largely a friendly city,” she said.
“We hope to bring a message of peace and unity to the city. We have different organizations coming out to support us.”
Daniels said she is open to having a discussion with opposing groups.
“I know they say they want to have a conversation with us, but we have no way to communicate with them because they have blocked us on all social media,” she said.
‘We are not racist’
“We want to engage in conversation and we want to understand them. They can understand us,” he said. “But when we don’t align ourselves with them, then all of a sudden, they are calling us racist, white supremacists.”
The group doesn’t want looting and rioting, King said, “but we know that’s what they are trying to escalate to.”
There have been no instances of looting and rioting in Red Deer in connection with BLM.
“We are not racist. None of these people. We have a multicultural group of citizens here,” he said.
“We have Native people, we have Jewish people, we have all different cultures. How can you call us racist?”
King said he is concerned about Antifa, an anti-fascist ideology.
“We know that Antifa are violent, aggressive. I got to watch what I say, but they’re punks,” he said. “They come in and they’re going to thwart this Black Lives Matter movement and they’ll be the provocateurs and the aggressors in all of this.”
King’s public Facebook also contains comments and pictures that show he is against the Antifa ideology. While King denied a connection to white supremacy, the Anti-Defamation League considers “anti-Antifa imagery” as a symbol connected to white supremacy.
The RCMP’s presence on Sunday was overkill, King said.
Staff Sgt. Marlene Brown said the RCMP had adequate resources in place to ensure public safety, noting that several roads were blocked off.
“We wanted to ensure there was adequate space for people to exercise their right to assemble,” Brown said. “We felt it was in the best interest of everyone involved.”
‘People need to educate themselves’
Cheryl Jaime, founder of Red Deer Against Racism, said Sunday that the Sept. 20 rally “proves they are at a different point of learning,” adding that she welcomes discussion.
Having her event crashed caused her much anxiety.
“It also goes beyond just the fact that they crashed it; a lot of organizers like myself have been receiving death threats online,” Jaime said.
“Obviously, I do feel a sense of fear, but at the same time, this is a discussion that is more than necessary, and we are going to keep showing up and standing up and it kind of is a motivating factor.”
Sunday’s event was “intersectional,” Jaime explained.
“It is all-inclusive: we have Pride, we have racialized folks, we have people who have disabilities joining us,” she said.
“We want to get the message across that we are a peaceful bunch, and we just want equality for absolutely everybody.”
Jaime wants people to confront reality.
“Canada has a big representation of being welcoming and inclusive, but this is a reality, and even just the racial slurs that the hate groups direct towards us, this is a daily reality for people,” she said.
“That is why we were discussing this because we are tired of it and people need to educate themselves.”