Anti-Islam group and anti-racism activists both plan rallies Saturday at city hall

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 In July, a group that few Londoners probably knew much about held a small rally at city hall.

A couple of dozen opponents and supporters of Pegida Canada, an anti-Islam group, shouted at each other a bit before leaving. There was minor media attention.

That was before Charlottesville, Va., and the death of Heather D. Heyer, 32, when a unite-the-right rally Aug. 12 turned violent and a driver plowed a car into counter-protesters.

Pegida is planning a rally in front of city hall Saturday, and counter-protesters are vowing to show up. Here’s what you need to know about the rally and potential counter-protest.

The basics

Pegida Canada, an anti-Islam group, is planning what it’s calling Freedom Rally at city hall, Saturday, from noon to 2 p.m.

The group is a Canadian branch of Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.

Anti-racism activists are planning a counter protest.

What’s the rally about?

“The rally on the (Saturday) will deal with what is being taught in mosques in Canada with some secondary topics as well. Our main aim in doing this is to educate the public, we feel that people can create change, and if we give them the information, they can do what they will with it,” Pegida Canada said in Facebook messages to The Free Press.

The London rally appears to be the first by Pegida Canada since the violence in Charlottesville.

An anti-Islam rally in Vancouver last Saturday organized by other groups drew a half dozen on the anti-Islam side, and about 4,000 anti-racism counter protesters.

Who’s going?

Besides members of Pegida Canada, members of other groups associated with the far right and white nationalism say on Facebook they’ll be attending. At least one member of Proud Boys Canada, which describes itself as pro Western values, guns and gay rights, but against Islam and feminism, is listed on Facebook as going. Other people planning to attend claim membership in the Canadian Combat Coalition, dedicated to upholding Canadian values, and anti-Islam group called Sons of Odin.

In Facebook message exchanges, Pegida Canada said they had planned this rally before the events of Charlottesville. “What happened in Virginia is the exact opposite of what we want to accomplish,” a spokesperson said.

Members of anti-racism groups have said on social media they plan to attend as well.

Security

Pegida Canada says it will have its own security, a group called 3%. The right wing group, which boasts of firearms power, is based in the United States and opposes what it considers infringement of the U.S. Constitution.

London police, of course, will also have officers on hand.

“The London Police Service will have appropriate resources on hand in anticipation of the number of people attending the advertised event.  Police will respond according to the actions and behaviours being displayed at the time,” spokesperson Const. Sandasha Bough said.

“The London Police Service is committed to a safe and secure community. We recognize a person’s right to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly and are committed to protecting these rights.

“We realize that persons present will have opposing viewpoints and our officers will enforce the law in a neutral manner,” Bough said. “The London Police Service is committed to working with all involved community members . . . to ensure a safe event. Property damage or violence in the name of any cause will not be tolerated.”

White supremacist rally?

Pegida Canada says no. The group says it is against the Islamization of the West, but are not white supremacists.

Critics say new groups like Pegida Canada are simply couching their racism in language that avoids trouble.

rrichmond@postmedia.com

twitter.com/RandyRatLFPress


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