Four people were arrested after a group of protesters opposed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clashed with counter-demonstrators in Toronto, Ontario. Police say both sides bear responsibility.
The aim of the protest, held at Nathan Phillips Square outside the city hall, was to “allow Canadians of all different political affiliations to come together and express their disapproval with Justin Trudeau’s performance during his time as Prime Minister of Canada thus far,” read the event’s page on Facebook.
“From soaring taxes to out of control spending, to the paying of a convicted terrorist in Omar Khadr to the sum of $10.5 million, Justin Trudeau has given us all plenty of reason to let him know he’s gotta go!”
But despite these claims of non-partisanship, “Let Trudeau Know He Has To Go!” attracted a number of right-wing supporters, including members of the Proud Boys and Northern Guard, some of whom were chanting or waving anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant slogans. Other protesters wore Donald Trump masks, chanting “build that wall!” and “Deus vult!” – a rallying cry during the Crusades.
As the protesters gathered on Saturday afternoon, they were met by a crowd of counter-demonstrators. Fighting broke out and police had to separate the two sides.
At least one woman was injured in the stand-off between the two groups, CTV News reported, while four people were arrested on charges including disturbing the peace, assaulting a police officer, and carrying a prohibited weapon, reported to be a can of pepper spray. Toronto Police Staff Sgt. Kazimierz Konkel told CBC News the two groups of activists were “two sides of the coin.”
“For a moment or two it was rather violent and the police interceded,” Konkel told CBC.
Activist Ronny Cameron, who helped organize the event, said that the counterdemonstration misrepresented the point of his rally.
“The left likes to make people think that this is about more than Justin Trudeau — that it’s a white supremacist rally, but no this is just an anti-Trudeau rally. There are many people that oppose Justin Trudeau and what he’s doing right now,” Cameron told CP24.
Cameron claimed his group was set upon by Antifa as soon as they arrived.
“As soon as we turned a corner, Antifa rushed us, they started getting into our face, they just started throwing punches, they started kicking.”
But according to Sarah Ali, a member of SAFE: Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere, which organized the counter-demonstration, the presence of far-right groups at the anti-Trudeau protest was proof of a broader agenda.
“They may be out here to criticize Trudeau, but they're actually out here to say, ‘We can’t have refugees,’” Ali told CBC News.
“You can have a criticism of foreign and domestic policy without being a fascist. But when you start to herald to a mythical white past, or when you start to associate with neo-Nazi or white supremacist groups, that’s when you start crossing that line.”
Those attending the counter-rally said it was important to take a stand against what they perceived as fascism.
“You need to show solidarity, you need to show co-operation with one another, you need to show unity and you need to show that the people will not stand for this,” one counter-protester told RT’s Ruptly video news agency.