Heated arguments erupt between anti-Muslim demonstrators and counterprotesters at Vancouver City Hall
As people gathered today (August 19) to listen to speakers at the Stand Up Against Racism demonstration held at the south entrance of Vancouver City Hall, it was a different scene on the north side of the building.
There, clusters of people formed around a few anti-Muslim individuals, who began to argue and engage in yelling matches with members of the crowd.
Vancouver police formed circles around the individual anti-Muslim speakers, who were vastly outnumbered, to separate them from those who opposed them as conversations became heated, including swearing, insults, and threats of physical violence.
"You kind of people are fucking not welcome in Canada," one man yelled at the anti-Muslim demonstrator.
Police repeatedly asked people to step back away from them and the anti-Muslim and anti-immigration demonstrators.
A man wearing a sun hat and sunglasses and carrying the Qur'an refused to identify himself but argued against Muslim people coming to Canada. He was supported by a woman who accompanied him, and who engaged occassionally in arguments with others.
When the Georgia Straight asked what his level of education was, as he claimed to have expertise about the subject and that everyone else was ignorant, he said he has some post-secondary education but would not specify what or in what area.
"I won't give out any personal information," he said and began to criticize the Georgia Straight for not reading the Qur'an.
As he continued to argue with the crowd, he explained his position.
"I'm standing up for truth," he said. "I'm standing up for the 270 million people that have been killed in the name of Islam. And you're not. You're not. You're not."
As the crowd argued with him, he claimed he was trying to expose the truth about Islam.
"If you chose to inform yourself about the subject that I'm standing for, you might agree with me," he continued. "One of the primary motivations I have is to inform Muslims about the true Qur'an, about the true Islam, because many of them from Islamic countries have no idea, they've never read the Qur'an."
A man who said he is a former Muslim said it's not effective to say the Qur'an is a fascist book.
The anti-Islamic protester claimed to be speaking for women he alleged are being raped in Sweden, France, and Germany by Muslim men.
"The media is trying to cover it up and our police officers are trying to cover it up," he claimed.
His arguments were often drowned out by a protest band playing music, chants from the crowd such as "bigots go home" or "facists, racists, go away", or being booed. Several members of the crowd yelled at him to show his face, as it was obscured by his hat and sunglasses.
As the intensity of the argument escalated, someone pulled off the hat on his head, to the cheers of the crowd.
Sometime thereafter, the police began to escort him away, but it was unclear for what reason. As he left, the crowd cheered and sang "Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye".
Several offshoot arguments also began.
Before the anti-Muslim protester was taken away by police, one man had stepped in to say he did not necessarily agree with everything the anti-Muslim protester was saying but argued that freedom of speech should allow everyone to express their opinions. The man arguing for free-speech became the focal point of the anti-racism protesters.
When the Georgia Straight asked him about where he would draw the line between freedom of speech and hate speech, he said that those terms need to be defined.
"I don't agree that all of us should be standing here calling you a racist," he said to the anti-Muslim protester." I'd like to hear your ideas and understand what you're worried about but you're not doing this from a place of hatred. You're doing it from a place of taking care of Canadians. You don't want terrorists to come and you don't want Islam to take over as the dominant culture."
However, he began to argue with other crowd members about white privilege and racism against white people.
Meanwhile, another argument broke out between a man and several women over First Nations rights, taxes, and the Canadian government.
Another group surrounding a far-right demonstrator drowned him out by singing the Canadian national anthem.
The Vancouver Police Department announced that there were five arrests for a breach of peace and two people escorted away to prevent disturbance. There were no reported assaults or injuries.
Meanwhile, the demonstration on the south side of the building was described as "friendly" by the police and remained peaceful.