A Toronto-based antiracist group is planning a trip to London, Ontario to confront the neo-Nazis who protest the city’s Pride parade each year.
But the city doesn’t seem to want the antiracist group there.
Anti-Racist Action Toronto (ARA), a group that in the past has been involved in violent confrontations with racists, is aiming to take a convoy to London’s Pride Parade on Sun, Jul 10.
“For the past three or four years, neo-Nazis have gone out and tried to intimidate paradegoers,” says ARA member Shane Martinez. “We’re trying to make a southern Ontario coalition to go to London and try to block their message.
“We’re trying to show people in London that they do have support. The thing that’s worried people is that this has gone unchallenged for so long,” says Martinez.
But a London antiracist organization and the city’s Pride committee say ARA’s proposal would only play into the hands of the dozen or so neo-Nazis who show up with signs each year.
“We kind of ignore them,” says Dan Steele, president of Pride London Festival. “We’ve never really had problems with them in the past. If they know that they’re being ignored, it really bothers them.”
Debbie Lee, the executive director of London’s Association For The Elimination Of Hate and a former Pride chair herself, agrees that confronting the protestors would be counterproductive.
“I’m not sure that we would want a group of people from Toronto descending on this small group and giving them publicity. That’s exactly what they want. I would hate to give them more exposure. They’re a pretty benign group who think they’re bigger than they are. They really don’t cause a whole lot of shit, other than putting garbage on the Internet.
“If there was a rally about the protestors, that would be the only thing that would be on the news. I guess what we try to do with Pride is take the attention off the groups that are protesting and keep it on the parade.”
Lee adds that London police will be on hand just in case.
But Martinez says London police have usually not dealt well with minorities.
“They’ve never really shown any strong outreach. They’ve been neglecting the communities they claim to serve.”
London police have had a tortured relationship with local queers in the past, especially when Julian Fantino was chief. His investigation of child porn became what many labelled a witch-hunt against gay men.
Martinez admits that the neo-Nazis have never attacked paradegoers.
“They want to scare people more than anything. There’s too much activity going on for them to do what they would really like to do,” he speculates.
Martinez says ARA will not initiate any violence, but wouldn’t rule it out.
“We’re not going to incite or initiate any physical confrontation. But if they choose to be physical with us, we’ll defend ourselves.”
He says ARA will take direction from London’s queers on the whole issue.
“ARA has always promoted community self-defence. We think it will be up to the community to decide where this will lead. We’ve tried to get in touch with London Pride people. We haven’t heard back from them.”
Steele says someone from Pride will get in touch with ARA.
Martinez says ARA will be marching in Toronto’s Pride Parade, will have a table set up there and will be canvassing for donations to finance the London trip.