On March 25, 2017, approximately 200 people responded to a call to confront far-right groups planning to disrupt a day of anti-racist/anti-fascist workshops in Montreal. The call was made after a Facebook event calling to shut down the “terrorist workshop” surfaced. The event was made by the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCCC), the same group that called for the anti-immigrant March 4th demonstrations which occurred all across Canada. On that day, fascist group La Meute was able to take the streets of Montreal for the first time.
Originally published by Montreal Counter-Info
At around 9am, folks began to gather in front of the Hall Building of Concordia University’s downtown campus, where the workshop was to be held. The crowd was a mixture of students, anti-fascists, and anarchists, close to half of which had faces covered. It was a cold morning and drinking coffee without taking off our masks was proving more difficult than usual, but the very real threat of another far-right mobilization similar to that of March 4th kept us vigilant.
After about 45 minutes, a grey mini-van pulled up next to the crowd. From it emerged Georges Hallak, leader and seemingly the only member of CCCC. With a shit-eating grin and a Canadian flag affixed to a hockey stick (fucking Canadians…), he began to walk towards the crowd, making it just a few steps before his face met a barrage of fists. Police quickly made their way over, put Hallak in handcuffs, and stuffed him inside a cruiser.
The crowd cackled and cheered, equally excited and in disbelief of the scene that had transpired (seriously, a Canadian flag glued to a hockey stick…what the fuck?). To make matters even more ridiculous, it turned out that Hallak had actually been livestreaming on Facebook while all of this happened. The video of his swift demise lives on in our hearts and our hard-drives. The mood was thus set: it appeared that the crowd was feeling confrontational.
Ten minutes later, a lone skinhead materialized across the street. Clad in camo pants, some seriously tacky sunglasses, and “red braces”1 (suspenders), the man waddled around, talked to cops, and hid behind a police cruiser, seemingly confused as to where the rest of his friends were. A few projectiles were thrown in his direction but the crowd did not engage with him further. Eventually a small group of masked individuals approached and pushed him to the ground (note: Doc Marten’s have terrible grip and don’t fare very well in the snow). After having gotten a few punches in, the scuffle was broken up by police, who pushed the masked individuals back into the crowd.
Amidst the excitement, we failed to notice that the driver of the mini-van had actually parked half a block from the demonstration. After confirming that this was in fact the same vehicle, the crowd approached it just a few seconds before it drove off. A volley of rocks pelted the speeding vehicle, though we were not able to catch up to it.
In Hallak’s livestream, he mentions having coordinated with Soldiers of Odin (SOO), an anti-immigrant vigilante group. SOO was formed in Finland in 2015 but has since established chapters in dozens of cities across Canada. Shortly after Hallak’s arrest, about twenty members of SOO were spotted in front of a McDonald’s a block away from the demonstration. A couple dozen people clad in masks broke off from the main crowd in an effort to confront them but police were everywhere.
Having regrouped, SOO marched towards the demonstration, making it just half-a-block before being met by an angry group of militants. Police at first prevented the two sides from clashing, but a small group used an alleyway to their advantage and was able to pelt the SOO group with eggs and chunks of ice. SOO pitifully made their way back to the McDonald’s and dispersed.
At some point during these initial confrontations, police were able to isolate one anti-fascist and beat and arrest him; he was later released with a ticket. The next couple hours saw many demonstrators head into the Hall Building to attend the morning’s workshop undisrupted, while a couple of hilarious events transpired outside.
Two SOO members were spotted eating cheeseburgers inside the McDonald’s. A small group of masked individuals entered the Golden Arches and attempted to confront them, but an incredibly awkward conversation broke out between the two groups instead. We stood around awkwardly while some people, presumably interested in the new all-day breakfast options, wondered if we were in line. The two men became increasingly cantankerous, and we decided reinforcements would be helpful. Soon, a crowd of twenty arrived from a block over and pummeled one of the SOO members with eggs and fists. When a pickup truck for them to flee in arrived on the corner, another member was beaten to the ground and the vehicle had a window broken with a well-placed rock.
Hallak’s mini-van, parked outside of the police station by his driver who was seemingly wanting to check up on him, was given a thorough redecoration (just in time for spring!). Police attempted to usher Hallak into the vehicle but were forced to stuff him back into a police cruiser when a small confrontational crowd emerged. The mini-van and cruiser drove off, not to be seen again.
After another hour and no sight of racists, demonstrators dispersed. The morning was eventful and filled with fun activities, a welcome morale boost after our failures on March 4th. However, we find it important to point out some areas that could use improvement.
Although the racists were definitely outnumbered and outmaneuvered, they were still able to assemble, even if only on the sidewalk. This itself can be seen as a victory for them. Their ability to take the streets will only serve to galvanize their ranks and provide opportunities for them to conduct outreach and recruit potential members. A no-platform approach works best if we make it absolutely impossible for them to show up in numbers.
The groups that show up to these events (CCCC, Soldiers of Odin, La Meute) have very public web presences. Online surveillance can help us glean crucial info in terms of their tactics and logistical capacity. These people’s faces and full names are all over Facebook.
These demonstrations can consist of a lot downtime. We sometimes wait for hours before any sign of the enemy arises. Let’s use this time to form informal assemblies or spokes-councils in which we can share ideas and discuss strategies in order to be more cohesive in the streets.
- Within a few racist skinhead circles, red braces have to be “earned” by some violent act such as attacking a perceived enemy of the white race. However, some skinheads wear red not because they have committed an act of violence but simply because it is part of their subculture. ↩