About 40 self-proclaimed “Alberta patriots” protesting a “tyrannical” Canadian government were met by hundreds of counter-protesters on the steps of Calgary City Hall on Sunday.
The rally, called both “Deployment Day” and “Deplorable Day” by organizers on Facebook, was spearheaded by the North American Freedom Fighters (NAFF), formerly known as the Canadian Combat Coalition.
The event was billed as an anti-government rally and also a “tribute” to Canadian veterans and those fighting to “protect our freedoms as Canadians.”
But some members of the group are also members of the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI), a group that marched on city hall for an anti-Islam rally in June despite being denied a permit by the city.
Members of the Calgary chapter of NAFF declined to speak to CBC News and Radio-Canada, calling the media outlets “fake news.”
‘I believe it is a temporary thing’
The NAFF and WCAI gathering was outnumbered by counter protesters from Voices – Calgary’s Coalition of Two-Spirit & Racialized LGTBQIA+, as well as the Calgary Anti-Fascist Action.
Tet Millare, a member of Voices, said the theme of the NAFF’s rally was disingenuous and the group uses veterans and religion “to mask their hatred.”
“It’s important to come here and be counted,” Millare said Sunday. “We’re here to fight for everyone’s rights. Human rights are inherent in all of us. We’re born with it, but some people think they’re better.”
Maha Alghoul attended the counter-protest with her young daughter Fatima Choudhry to educate her daughter on the anti-Islam movement, but also show “the amount of support” Muslims have from the community.
Alghoul said she thinks the increase of anti-Muslim rhetoric from some Canadians won’t last forever.
“I believe it is a temporary thing and it will fizz away,” Alghoul said. “Because I think what we have in Canada is much stronger than what [hate groups] are promoting.”
No arrests or injuries
Members of the “patriot group” Canadian Three Percenters were on-hand at the rally.
Beau Welling, president of Alberta Three Percenters, said the group attended the rally to provide security for both sides and is a neutral party.
“What we believe in, strongly believe in, is freedom of speech,” Welling said.
Welling said members of the Alberta Three Percenters offered security and to “protect” both protesters and counter-protesters. The offer was denied by anti-racism activists but accepted by the NAFF.
He said his group co-operated with the Calgary Police Service.
Welling said the group’s volunteer security services include showing up early to events and rallies to make sure counter-protesters haven’t “set up any weapons or ditched any weapons they can get at through the rally.”
The Calgary Police Service said no arrests were made during the protests.