When the organizer of a rally against what he calls "fake news" arrived on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg Saturday morning, he was surrounded by hundreds of people who gathered in advance of a rally against hate later in the day.
A few people showed up for the anti-fake news event, called Stand Against Canadian Fake News Corporations, which was organized by the group Winnipeg Alternative Media. The group claims mainstream media are disseminating what it calls "fake news."
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Meanwhile, about 200 people assembled hours earlier for the Winnipeg Diversity Rally Against Hate outside the CBC Manitoba building on Portage Avenue.
The two events were organized after a member of the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI) posted plans on Facebook for a Saturday rally in downtown Winnipeg. The group has been involved in planning anti-immigrant rallies in Vancouver and Calgary. That rally was cancelled days before, but the other two rallies went ahead anyway.
About three people wearing Winnipeg Alternative Media shirts arrived near the corner of Portage Avenue and Spence Street around 12:40 p.m. Todd McDougall of Winnipeg Alternative Media held a megaphone and started speaking to a crowd of about 40 people before he had a bottle of water dumped on him.
He continued speaking to the crowd while they yelled, "Shame." He slowly backed up onto busy Portage Avenue before leaving the area.
Most of the members of the rally against hate were at the basketball court on the University of Winnipeg grounds in advance of the march to the legislature.
People held signs that read, "Love," "United Against Hate" and "Fandom Against Hate." A few had their faces covered and held Antifa, or anti-fascist, flags.
Omar Kinnarath, an organizer with Fascist Free Treaty One and the rally against hate, said it was important to show WCAI and groups like it that they weren't welcome on Winnipeg's streets, particularly downtown.
"A lot of people go to school or have gone to school here [at the University of Winnipeg]," he said.
"This is an important area for leftist culture in Winnipeg and, not only that, it's a heavily populated Indigenous area and there are lots of Muslim immigrants and refugees here. It makes no sense why they would want to come here."
Although they had learned members of WCAI may not show, Kinnarath said the rally went ahead as "a show of force and unity."
Later the rally against hate marched through downtown where more than 500 people gathered at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
Nina Ferrigno said the violence in Charlottesville, Va., where a counter-protester died after a car driven by a suspected far-right demonstrator rammed into a crowd, and elsewhere across North America shows that people need to stand publicly against intolerance.
"It's actually our duty as citizens to appeal to our government. They are our representatives and we need to hold them accountable to act on our behalf, to make sure that we are acting as a like-minded community on a global scale," she said.
"And that means addressing our history of imperialism, colonialism and white supremacy."