It feels like we’re at a crossroads. Emboldened by the election of a racists president int he United States, and the events at Charlottesville a bunch of racists decided to organize a rally in Vancouver City Hall. It didn’t take long for a counter protest to be organized. Then came the question: Do I go?
I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure about going at first. There are two things that it came down to for me. First, not going would be a pretty gross exercise of my privilege as a white man. Second, you know when you read about historical events like the Nazis taking over Germany and you wonder how normal everyday Germans let it happen? Pretty sure people not going to things like counter protesting Nazis is how.
So I went and I am glad that I did. I had heard that there were somewhere around 100 racists to show up for their rally and that the counter protest would outnumber them approximately 10 to 1; already a good sign. As my friends and I walked up toward city hall from the north side I felt pretty sombre. There were people streaming towards the area but it didn’t feel like a lot. As we circled around the east side of the building though it became apparent that my initial impression of the crowd was dead wrong. The crowd was enormous.
As it turns out the estimated attendance for the anti-racism rally was around 4000 people or roughly 40 to 1 of the racists that were pledged to show up. The CBC posted a great photo from above showing the crowd.
— CBC British Columbia (@cbcnewsbc) August 19, 2017
I distinctly remember thinking pretty much immediately that the racists wouldn’t be able to have their rally. I wasn’t quite sure they’d be afraid of the crowd (one of the racist groups that was to attend apparently thrives on confrontation) but I did think we were taking up all of the space. Around an hour later we heard the word that the racist rally had indeed been cancelled. I don’t know at this point if they are planning another at City Hall or elsewhere but for now they are shut down and to my mind that is the best possible outcome. Sure, they may not be shut down forever but they were shut down pretty hard on their first attempt to rally in Vancouver and they’ll think twice about trying it again.
It’s worth noting that there were some racists who showed up. One that I saw that to be escorted away by the police because he was being surrounded by counter-protesters yelling at him to leave. Another was doing some sort of live stream where he was trying to trap people into agreeing with him that Muslims are bad, but he had little luck that I saw and soon left. They were around but it feels like they were thoroughly discouraged.
The whole afternoon gave me a pretty big boost. Things have felt pretty dark of late but to see people show up in such numbers with a clear message that we won’t tolerate intolerance felt pretty great; like maybe we’re not at as much of a crossroads as I thought. Plus, Vancouverites came up with some pretty great signs for the protest.