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Canadian anti-mask protesters marched with tiki torches this weekend

A group of hundreds of anti-mask and lockdown protesters marched through the streets of Edmonton that weekend, many with tiki torches in hand.

A photo showing protesters carrying tiki torches in Edmonton on Saturday. (Photo via Marta PK Facebook page.)

A group of hundreds of anti-mask and lockdown protesters marched through the streets of Edmonton that weekend, many with tiki torches in hand.

The march called Freedom Walk by demonstrators, A rally followed in Edmonton’s legislature that included conspiracy theorists and a man charged with hate crimes against Muslims.

During the Edmonton march, protesters chanted “no more false news”, “no more false science” and “we are human”. Many of the protesters clutched tiki torches, which many observers linked to tiki torches by white nationalists in connection with the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

While a large part of the anti-mask and anti-lockdown populations may not consider themselves to be far-right, it is difficult to ignore the influence of far-right populations within the community.

The decision for the protesters to hold tiki torches in bright Albertanian daylight was made after that Media surveyed advertising material for the event with pictures of the Charlottesville protesters.

“You knew what this symbol meant. Any claim they didn’t know ended up using the images, even after they were found to have been taken from the Unite the Right Torch March in Charlottesville and were widely discussed in the media, ”said Kurt Phillips, board member of the Canadian anti-hate network, VICE World News told. “No one can convince me that this was not an attempt to intimidate whom they characterized as their enemies: government and politicians, public health workers, ‘leftists’ and others.”

Marie Renaud, an NDP-MLA for St. Albert, Alberta, spoke out against the rally and received disturbing messages as a result. A Facebook message told her that she was “going to hang because of this plan,” warned her that the mob hoped to “bring back corporal punishment,” and advised her to “run while (she) still can.” Renaud told VICE World News that this type of news was not new, but actions like this weekend “encouraged people”.

“I think there are about 50 (messages like this) at the last count,” said Renaud. “It’s important to point out, especially what happened this weekend … There are people who carry tiki torches. It is no accident that they wear them. They are very symbolic. “

The rally organizers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

It is not just politicians that the demonstrators are aggressive towards. The video recorded by journalists at the rally shows demonstrators angry and aggressive against the presence of reporters at the rally. A video by City News reporter Bailey Nitti shows protesters looking cameramen and reporters in the face and shouting “false news” at them. Edmonton Police said one of the organizers of the Freedom Walk was arrested for “causing disturbance”.

After the rally, Sgt. Michael Elliott, the head of the Edmonton Police Association, tweeted that “four members were attacked at the event and we had isolated numerous members due to either contract / close contacts”. Still – and the obvious evidence of an infamous white rally – the Edmonton Police Department characterized the Tiki Torch Rally as “Peaceful” and respectful “in a tweet. Edmonton police did not respond to VICE’s request for comment.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network said the speakers and organizers of the event were a relative “Who’s Who of the Albertans on the far right. “This included Kevin Johnston, a man best known for later paying $ 2.5 million to a restaurateur in Toronto Spread of anti-Islamic conspiracies about him and charged with a hate crime for online targeting of Muslims; Peter Downing, co-founder of the Wexit movement; Artur Pawlowski, a Calgary street preacher known for anti-LGBTQ diatribes; and Laura-Lynn Thompson, a conspiracy theorist who ran (and lost) for the People Party of Canada in the 2019 general election and currently chairs the Christian Heritage Party of BC.

Several anti-mask groups withdrawn from the event because of the toxicity of the organizer. Phillips, who was closely following the organization of the rally, said the participants were mixed, including “would-be bikers spoiling a fight”, “Qanon conspirators”, anti-Vaxxers and various religious groups.

“The bonds that bind all these groups together are, of course, anti-lockdown motivation, but one that underlies an anti-government mentality that people like Trump have contributed to since the pandemic began. If he had spoken out in favor of masks and a ban, I wouldn’t be sure that this movement would be what it is today, ”said Phillips.

At least four Muslim women in the past few months were attacked in “hate-motivated” attacks in Edmonton. Renaud was emotional when he spoke of seeing people marching through the city with tiki torches.

“It’s really sad,” she said. “I thought we learned something. I thought we learned the importance of defending against these things and against these symbols. ”

Several heads of state and government have publicly denounced the rally. Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson tweeted, “Edmonton clearly condemns racism, misogyny and other forms of hatred.” Janis Irwin, MLA of the NDP, tweeted: “Torches on a bright sunny day in Edmonton? Why? That is very useful. And it’s disgusting. ”

Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney has not yet condemned the march.

“The Alberta Prime Minister must stand up and condemn this type of behavior. Condemn this white nationalism, condemn this hatred, racism and bigotry and stand up and say this is wrong, “said Renaud.

A United Conservative Party spokesman did not return a request for comment on the march.

Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.

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