Protest groups upset over rally violence
By KATIE SCHNEIDER, SUN MEDIA
The Calgary Sun [Alberta]
March 23, 2009
CALGARY — Anti-Racist Action Calgary is condemning the violent actions of protesters demonstrating on their side of the line who clashed with the Aryan Guard at a weekend rally.
Three protesters were arrested Saturday when the anti-racist group confronted members of the Aryan Guard who were marching to celebrate White Pride Day.
The rally of several hundred people became violent when demonstrators began tossing water bottles, cans of food and signs at each other.
The chaotic clash injured two people, including Sun columnist Rick Bell.
But Jason Devine, spokesman for ARA, said the group does not condone violent protesting.
“We have said from the beginning it was supposed to be confrontational but not violent,” he said.
“We have never called on people to physically assault the Aryan Guard — our job was to ostracize them, getting the message out there are Nazis in our community.
“The signs are there to get the message out not there to bust people’s heads open.”
Devine said those who resorted to violence and were arrested were not associated to the ARA and had just joined the march off the street.
And once the debris was thrown, he said he tried to stop it.
“We immediately said to people ‘don’t do that because this is not what it’s about’,” he said.
“We in no way condone random people attacking them.”
But he said he doesn’t feel the ARA’s image has been tarnished with the violence that erupted from its side of the line.
“If people look into the situation … the ARA has not and is not advocating violence,” he said.
“They (the Aryan Guard) are the ones advocating violence.”
Protest turns violent as Calgary Aryan Guard, anti-racism activists square off
By Jamie Komarnicki, Calgary Herald [Alberta]
March 21, 2009
A white pride march through Calgary’s core quickly deteriorated into a violent melee Saturday as protesters flung rocks, aluminum cans and other projectiles into a crowd of people taking part in the demonstration.
Several fist fights broke out at the Aryan Guard rally and at least two people were treated for head injuries after being hit by the projectiles, although the injuries weren’t serious.
Police arrested three people, and charges are pending.
More than 400 anti-racist protesters confronted about 60 members of Calgary-based white supremacist group, the Aryan Guard.
The white pride marchers began their route near Mewata Armouries and planned to make their way to city hall.
The Aryan Guard waved white pride flags and chanted slogans as they zigzagged through the inner city. Their path was blocked at several turns by the raucous anti-racist activists, who first clashed with the marchers at 7th Avenue and 6th Street SW.
A strong police presence formed a human barricade between the two sides.
Authorities broke up several fights between the two sides along the way.
At one point, the Aryan Guard marchers brought traffic to a standstill on 6th Avenue as they threaded their way through vehicles.
“It freaks me out,” said one motorist, recording the protest on his cellphone through his car window.
The protest ended at about 4:30 p.m. when the Aryan Guard boarded a city bus and were shuttled out of the core.
Earlier in the day, the group of anti-racist activists held a “celebration of diversity” on the steps of city hall as part of efforts to overshadow the Aryan Guard’s event.
Several hundred people, many waving anti-racist signs and some of them masked, gathered for a series of speeches and songs promoting multiculturalism.
Rally organizers lashed out at the Aryan Guard.
“The message has to get out there, they’ve got to be exposed,” said Jason Devine.
“This rally isn’t going to get rid of the Aryan Guard, but it is a blow to them.
“This is a springboard we have to build of off. We have to take the energy of this rally and go further.”
Kelsey Mills learned of the event after reading an article in her high school newspaper. A similar event last year — which saw throngs of white supremacists and anti-racists clash on downtown Calgary streets — was shocking, she said.
“I just think that it’s not right. The Aryan Guard shouldn’t be around,” said Mills, 17.
Harmohinder Plaha, president of Calgary’s South Asian Canadian Association, called for Calgarians to stand up against racism.
“We don’t like racism. We are totally against it,” he said.