Hundreds take to streets of Peterborough in 'resistance' against planned anti-immigration rally
Canadian Nationalist Front says it seeks 'return to Canada's original predominantly white-European' makeup
Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Peterborough Saturday in what organizers called an act of "resistance" against a planned anti-immigration rally by a group calling itself the Canadian Nationalist Front.
At least 250 counter-protesters turned out to face down a handful of demonstrators from the opposing side, with tensions peaking when an altercation broke out between some of those in attendance, and dozens of demonstrators swarmed a police car chanting, "Protesting fascism isn't a crime!"
Multiple people were arrested and placed in police cars. Peterborough police have not confirmed if any charges have been laid.
"We are reviewing tapes and videos to identify participants in today's events and the rest of the story will come out in the press release," Peterborough's police chief Murray Rodd told CBC News.
News of the planned demonsration made headlines earlier this week when Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett said the city was unable to deny a permit for the "non-violent rally against immigration policies and the Trudeau government."
The statement from the mayor went on to say he assumed the organizers behind the event wanted "to create controversy and get media attention."
"The last time one of these individuals was part of a rally in Peterborough it involved four people standing on a corner. We don't want to raise the profile of these individuals," Bennett said.
But at least one Peterborough city councillor said the city should have never granted the permit, decrying its organizer and CNF chairman Kevin Goudreau as a neo-Nazi.
"Nazis and neo-Nazis come from a place of violence, not from a place of peace, so to me inherently it can't be a peaceful rally," Coun. Diane Therrien told CBC News earlier this week.
Goudreau fired back at that claim on Twitter, calling himself instead, "a patriot."
On its website, the CNF describes itself as a nationalist organization that "would like to see the return to Canada's original predominantly white-European and Native Aboriginal ethnic make up."
"Are you sick of being made to feel like a second-class citizen in your own country and to feel white guilt for no reason?" says a promotional flyer on the group's website.
Goudreau was not immediately available for comment Saturday but in a statement to CBC/Radio-Canada earlier this week, he defended "white pride" as the "preservation of culture and heritage." He added that he expected around 20 people to attend the anti-immigration rally.
On Friday, just one day before it was set to take place, the city told CBC News it would not in fact be issuing a permit for the event.
"The applicant was not able to fulfil the city's requirements for the application," chief administrative officer Allan Seabrooke said, saying organizers hadn't filled out the necessary paperwork in time.
Whether the rally was expected to be violent or not, Therrien told CBC News earlier this week it should have never been allowed in the first place.
Asked if those organizing counter-protests merely gave more publicity to the original rally than if it were to be ignored, she responded:
"This is the quandary that I've been having this week.... I don't want to give this guy more attention ... and I also don't want to normalize this behaviour or not speak out against it," she said. "Speaking out against this does need to happen."
With files from Ayesha Barmania