In the United States, President Donald Trump has taken a remarkably soft position against white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said on Tuesday (August 15), three days after white supremacists clashed with antiracism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that but I’ll say it right now.”
In Charlottesville, beginning Friday night (August 11), alt-right demonstrators held a march that invoked Nazi imagery and saw hundreds of participants chant slogans against Jewish people and African-Americans. The following afternoon (August 12), one member of their group drove a car through a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.
“Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch,” Trump argued. “Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of [Confederate general] Robert E. Lee.”
A small contingent of left-wing protesters also used violence, wielding clubs to confront people participating in the gathering of white nationalists.
While Trump has appeared to argue that the two opposing sides are equal in terms of culpability and moral standing, in Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson has struck a very different tone, condemning the alt-right while supporting people who demonstrate against racism.
“I think it’s really important that people speak out at every opportunity against racism and hatred,” he told News 1130. “I know there will be a vigorous turnout of people protesting the white-supremacist rally, whatever that turns out to be.”
In a separate interview with the Globe and Mail, Robertson said that in Canada, people who sympathize with white supremacists do have a right to public assembly. But he immediately added that Vancouver residents can “confront” that movement.
"Canada is a free country and people have the right to demonstrate and protest," he said. "They have a right to demonstrate, but hatred and racism have no place in this city and I expect people to confront that and make sure there's a peaceful and direct push-back on racism and hatred."
In a series of messages posted on Twitter this morning (August 16), Robertson went further, appearing to actively encourage citizens to speak up against racism.
"Acts of hate/violence must always be met with non-violent resistance. We need to call out white supremacy/hate speech wherever it happens," he wrote. "We cannot be complacent with racism/hatred. Imperative that we are vigilant, defend our values, keep Vancouver an inclusive, welcoming city."
B.C.-based groups who share some views with America’s alt-right have planned a demonstration at Vancouver City Hall for Saturday (August 19). It’s expected they will be greeted there by a group of counterprotesters united in opposition against the rise of white nationalism that’s occurred this year, not just in the United States but in Canada as well.
The counter demonstration is organizing on a Facebook page titled “Stand Up to Racism in Metro Vancouver”.
The Oppose Racists in Metro Vancouver counterprotest takes place this Saturday (August 19), from 12:45 to 4 p.m., at Vancouver City Hall (453 West 12th Avenue).More