British Columbia

'Hatred and racism have no place in this city': Gregor Robertson condemns far-right rally

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson has spoken out against an alt-right rally planned for Saturday.

Robertson said the city is working with police to ensure the event remains peaceful

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said the city is working with the Vancouver Police Department and City Hall security to ensure the rally planned for Saturday remains peaceful. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

In the wake of a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last weekend, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson has condemned a far-right rally planned for Saturday at City Hall.

"People have the right to demonstrate, but hatred and racism have no place in this city," he said.

According to the event's Facebook page, which has since been removed, the rally organizers are protesting Islam and the Canadian government's immigration policies.

A counter-protest has since been organized, with over one thousand people on Facebook indicating they will be attending.

"I think it's really important that people speak out at every opportunity against racism and hatred. I know there will be a vigorous turnout of people protesting the white supremacists rally, whatever that turns out to be," Robertson said.

"Obviously, Vancouver has a troubled history with racism and discrimination. That's part of our history. We're very focused on being a city of reconciliation and zero tolerance of hatred and racism and discrimination." 

Robertson said the city cannot shut the rally down, but that staff are working with the Vancouver Police Department and City Hall Security to ensure the events remain peaceful. 

"That's the bottom line here. We need to be sure that we're walking the talk and keeping the peace."

A 'peaceful' counter protest

Activist Isabelle Rowe-Codner, co-founder of the ad hoc coalition Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver, is one of several people who have been monitoring alt-right groups in B.C. over the past year.

She said once they caught wind of the upcoming rally at city hall, they decided to organize the counter protest.

"[The counter protest] will essentially be there to outnumber them and give our voice some say," she told CBC News, adding that their group will be peaceful.

A counter protest organized by Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver will also be present at Vancouver City Hall on Saturday. (Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver/Facebook)

"We need to do this because hate speech becomes hate crimes, and if we allow racism and white supremacy to get any foothold in our community, then it will grow," she said. "It will make those affected by white supremacy and racism more vulnerable [and] feel more unsafe in their community — and that isn't acceptable."

Rowe-Codner said organizers will be keeping a close eye on counter protesters to ensure no one acts aggresively or violently.

"We're taking many safety precautions to make sure that everyone on our side feels safe."

Police taking precautions

​Sgt. Jason Robillard with the VPD says officers are aware of the conflicting protests and will be taking precautions to ensure it remains non-violent, however he did not offer any specific details of their plan.

"These types of rallies ... [are] very fluid," he said at a news conference. "There's still information coming in. We are monitoring the situation."

With files from Farrah Merali