On the afternoon of Saturday, September 19, 2015, a racist, xenophobic group by the name of PEGIDA Canada attempted to hold an anti-Muslim, anti-refugee rally at Queen’s Park. PEGIDA is a fascist group that originated in Germany, their name stands for Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West). Their main political activity is organizing demonstrations in the imperialist centres to advance anti-Islam, white supremacist and xenophobic politics, hiding behind the liberal language of “anti-misogyny,” “anti-violence,” and “anti-hate.”
But anti-racist and anti-fascist organizations and individuals have also responded with even bigger counter-protests whenever PEGIDA attempts to organize. In Toronto, while the numbers on the PEGIDA side were about a dozen or so, a group of approximately 100 people from various anti-fascist, anti-racist, and migrant justice organizations—including members of Proletariat Revolutionary Action Committee and of the Toronto, Hamilton, and Niagara chapters of the Revolutionary Student Movement—came together and formed a united front. With a force that outnumbered the racists 10:1, the anti-PEGIDA forces set out to not only prevent their rally from taking place but to also send a message to fascists of all kinds that the people will not abide their hate.
Chants such as “Refugees in! Islamaphobes out!” and “Nazi scum off our streets!” drowned out PEGIDA’s hateful songs and speeches. At one point, a militant managed to disconnect the chord supplying power to PEGIDA’s sound system. When asked why it was important for revolutionary communists to be present at these counter-demonstrations, a PRAC member responded, “We have to make these fascists know that every time they attempt to organize, we are always ready to stop them with militant action!”
As expected, the Toronto police formed a line to protect the fascists. While feeling safe and secure behind the line of bike cops as well as some ETF officers, PEGIDA continued to taunt the counter-demonstrators, particularly the militant women of colour in the frontlines. PEGIDA managed to power their amplifiers with a generator, raising anger and impatience amongst the crowd who were screaming “Shut it down! Shut it down!” A group of militants from different anti-racist organizations locked arms and started to advance towards the police line.
Expectedly, the police were quick to use violence in their attempt to fight back and suppress the advancing wave. Using fists and feet, batons and bicycles, the police beat on those who dared to get closer to PEGIDA forces. Many activists sustained bruises from the encounter. As furious as the cops were, it was apparent that the will of the people to fight was also intensifying. As the people push forward, the line of cops was soon forced into retreat, as was PEGIDA.
While the retreat of PEGIDA on September 19th can be seen as a small victory, the fight against white supremacy, Islamophobia and racism is a longer protracted battle. “The reactionary politics of PEGIDA may be seen as extremist and only shared by a few, but we have to remember that racist ideology has continued to shape the class struggle Canada,” says an RSM-Scarborough member. “Stopping PEGIDA is just a component of our greater task in advancing the class struggle, that is ultimately led by Indigenous and people from oppressed nations.”