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The purported Neo-Nazi rally that was to make its way from Braid Station to the Art Gallery downtown failed to materialize yesterday.
Waiting just in case, was a crowd of opposition protesters, their numbers estimated anywhere from 150 to 400 people. At the front of the group stood about 30 demonstrators assembled in the now-familiar Black Bloc, holding wooden batons and a large banner reading, ‘NAZI SCUM FUCK OFF!’.
David Eby, Executive Director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, stood on the fringes of the crowd as a legal observer. He said he understood the desire for anonymity amongst the protesters.
“It’s to prevent people from being identified as individuals and followed home or victimized later,” he said.
Confrontation flared only once, as two young men were said to have spat on the sign held by the Black Bloc protesters.
Maitland Cassia, media liaison for the Vancouver chapter of the anti-racist organization A.R.A., believed they were scouts for the Neo-Nazi march.
“Two guys came out of a car, looked at our group and were like, ‘holy shit’. Then two guys came through wearing hoodies and sunglasses and said, ‘Oh, where’s all our friends?’, and spat on the A.P.C. [Anti-Poverty Committee] banner,” Cassia said.
A young man standing behind the banner, wielding a wooden baton, confirmed the events, saying one of the men who spat on the sign was wearing a green patterned hoodie. “We tried to catch up with them, but they were behind the pigs.”
Asked what he would have done had he caught them, the man responded: “I don’t know, hopefully smash them.”
As we arrived on the upper level of the station we witnessed two men surrounded by police, media, and a handful of demonstrators. A man in a green hoodie told the cameras that people suddenly started calling him a Nazi. “We hate all races equally,” he assured them.
The men were escorted onto a Skytrain without incident.
An hour later, Maitland Cassia addressed the crowd, thanking them for their participation and declaring the action a success.
“To the art gallery,” he called out through a bullhorn. “Let’s party.”
News sites have been abuzz with comments questioning whether the rally was ever going to happen.
The story appears to have originated on the website of Anti-Racist Canada: The ARC Collective. The original story, no longer available on their site, was posted February 22nd, and included pictures of Travis Annan and Lee Peacock, who the site claimed were the organizers of the event.
A March 8th story run by the Georgia Straight generated a number of comments questioning the legitimacy of the rally, many of which were focused on the credibility of No One Is Illegal, the organization used by the Straight as its exclusive source of information. NOII has come under public fire for their support of the Black Bloc tactics that resulted in broken windows during the Heart Attack 2010 protest.
An NOII press release stated that they had received their information from the A.R.A.
“We have received information from Anti Racist Action and other groups that a white pride/neo-nazi group is planning a rally in the Lower Mainland on March 21st, 2010,” the statement read.
Maitland Cassia, media liaison for A.R.A., confirmed that his organization’s information was based on posts made on the Anti-Racist Canada website, and supplemented by the A.R.A.’s own investigations on Facebook.
Travis Annan meanwhile, claims he had nothing to do with the rally, and that someone used his identity online. In a comment made on Cassia’s press release, someone identifying themselves as Annan’s wife said that Annan opposed the rally, and that assertions that he was involved had put his safety in jeopardy:
“That picture you have on your site is my husband.(TA) I am cut out of the picture. who ever planed this march posed as him. He has nothing to do with this and is upset about his name being slandered. I completely disagree with the march and so does he. This has taken a horrible affect on myself and him. And i hate that his face is being posted all over this. When he had nothing to do with it. This has now put my husband and i in danger.”
Cassia confirmed he had been contacted by someone claiming to be Annan’s wife, who made similar assertions. While he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that someone could have organized the online rally in Annan’s name, Cassia said he doubted it.
“I know they talked to the Province and the Canadian Media as well, but neither could ascertain the veracity of their claims,” he said.
At the time of writing, The Dependent has not received confirmation on the source of the ARC Collective’s information detailing Travis Annan’s participation, nor have we had any success contacting Travis Annan directly.
Questions surrounding the legitimacy of the rally aside, the greeting to be expected for Nazis in Vancouver is abundantly clear: