Police are reviewing a clash caught on video, allegedly between two groups of protesters at Toronto’s Eaton Centre on Saturday, that occurred at the same time as the Dyke March during Pride celebration.
The fight started outside the downtown shopping mall, according to its management and Toronto police.
A protest by PEGIDA Canada, a group that describes itself as “Patriots of Canada against the Islamization of the West,” was planned at the courthouse at 361 University Ave. on Saturday with people from the yellow-vest movement and other right-wing groups in attendance.
Counter-protesters intercepted the demonstration, and the groups allegedly followed each other into the Eaton Centre.
A video shows people punching and kicking each other. Some of the people involved were wearing shirts with “Canada Nationalist Party” and “Read the Bible repent and be born again” written on them.
The person recording the video identified as a yellow-vest member.
Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride, said it’s no coincidence the incident happened during the Dyke March and near Pride’s main stage.
Pride was warned people were planning to disrupt the marches, she said; Toronto police were monitoring the situation and increased security. Anti-LGBT protests had occurred at Hamilton’s Pride event the weekend before and several people suffered minor injuries during a physical confrontation.
Nuamah said violence is on the rise against marginalized communities.
The video is a “physical manifestation of the issues that this community faces,” she said. “This is incredibly worrying.”
It’s not specific to Pride, Nuamah said, adding racist violence is happening across Canada and the Western developed world.
While it’s nothing new, Nuamah said, the political, social and economic environment is making it “much more OK” for people to cause harm.
“It’s growing, it’s menacing, it’s making us feel unsafe, and something needs to be done about it.”
‘Straight up violence and hatred’
The scene in the video was described as “straight up violence and hatred,” by Jessica Green, a University of Toronto professor, and expert on social movements.
Green said these groups can be very fluid; they often don’t have a single message and members self-identity — which is part of their strength.
The Canadian Nationalist Party — one of the names on T-shirts in the video — is an unregistered political party that advocates for an “ethnocentric Canada.” Ethnocentric is defined as the attitude that one’s own group is superior.
The group calls for restricted immigration and public defunding of Pride events on its website.
Nuamah said Pride was “incredibly well looked after” by the Toronto Police Service during the weekend’s festivities, which is why incidents did not spill into Pride events.
The incident on Saturday “was about Pride. It was about the kind of people coming to Pride,” she said.