By Sean Willett, June 27 2017 —
An anti-Islam rally at Calgary’s City Hall on June 25 was met with low attendance and a large counter-protest organized by Calgary Anti-Fascist Action (CAFA).
The rally was planned by the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI) in partnership with the Canadian Combat Coalition (CCC). Both are anti-Islamic Facebook groups based out of Calgary.
While the WCAI’s Facebook event page showed that 120 people planned on attending, only about 30 were present at the rally. A police blockade surrounded the group, restricting entrance to only those approved by event organizers.
Thomas Fougere, a journalist from Medicine Hat, drove to Calgary to document the rally.
“When I first saw this on the internet, I thought it was a joke,” he said. “Their signs were misspelled and all of their posts on social media are ridiculous, so I thought it was an ironic thing to make fun of what’s happening in the U.S. But when I realized it was real, I started following it more closely.”
“It all started to dwindle after these factions of far-right extremists started to anger each other over who is the biggest and best,” Fougere said. “They’re like pro-wrestlers, they’re just trying to promote themselves.”
The far-right National Advancement Party of Canada (NAPC) and the Alberta III% Militia were both originally billed as event partners, with the NAPC having obtained a permit to host the rally at Calgary’s Rotary Park on June 24. This event was first planned as a “Patriotic Unity Mega Rally” and was set to feature a barbecue, live bands and a bouncy castle.
These plans changed after NAPC head Stephen Garvey invited Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi to speak at the event. WCAI and CCC condemned this act, with CCC leader Ryan Dean accusing Garvey of “supporting the Muslim brotherhood and terrorism” in a public Facebook post. This led to a change of date and location, and caused the III% Militia to drop their support.
The event did not feature any live music or food, as originally advertised.
“I feel a little bit let down,” Fougere said. “I don’t see a pig roast and I don’t see a stage that looks suitable for any kind of concert.”
CAFA head Jason Devine was encouraged by the strong attendance at the counter-protest. WCAI’s event was dwarfed by CAFA’s demonstration, which over 100 individuals attended.
“I’m happy that there’s far more people that believe in peace, love and unity in this city than there are Islamophobes,” said Devine. “CAFA is going to continue to work and grow and reach out to allies. As long as groups like WCAI are active, we’re going to be active. Where they go, we go.”