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Activists Getting Organized as Fascists Plan An Ottawa Rally: New Campus Anti-fascist Network Coming To Carleton

by Brian McDougall

Antifaschistische Aktion Conference in Germany 1932 Credit: Wikimedia

Antifaschistische Aktion Conference in Germany 1932 Credit: Wikimedia

Mere weeks after the fascist violence in Charlottesville, a coalition of fascist and alt-right organizations — including Storm Alliance, La Meute, and the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens — are planning a public rally on Parliament Hill.

In response to that event, scheduled for 11a.m. on Sept. 30, members of Ottawa Against Fascism (OAF), a local Antifa group, are organizing a 10a.m. counter-rally, also on Parliament Hill. Other  trade unions and community groups are encouraged to follow OAF’s example and organize contingents to protest the fascist presence in Ottawa on Sept. 30.

Recent Mobilizations

Current efforts to mobilize Ottawa residents against fascism follow local actions after the fascist rampage in Charlottesville. The day after anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer was murdered in August, OAF attracted about 100 people to a vigil at the Human Rights monument on Elgin Street.

Ten days later, angered by Donald Trump’s failed “condemnation” of white supremacists, individuals from local religious and activist groups hosted a crowd of 700 people at the American embassy for a more liberal “protest against racism.”

Scapegoating

Trump’s election energized previously peripheral racist and fascist organizations. Feeding off his approval, they have set out to build organizations that can terrorize many segments of society.

Like Trump, fascists are scapegoating immigrants, racialized groups, feminists, leftists and others for the economic insecurity created by capitalism. And Canada is not immune from this kind of reaction. According to Statistics Canada, hate crimes against Muslims rose by more than 60 per cent between 2015 and 2016.

Fascists believe public displays of force can win recruits for a campaign to smash the organizations their victims use to defend against poverty, racism, vicious policing and other forms of oppression. But their gatherings also represent an opportunity for an anti-fascist shut-down. For example, in Boston and Berkeley, mass mobilizations by opponents of fascism (40,000 people and 5,000 respectively) have forced fascists to cancel planned events.

Closer to home, La Meute organized a rally in Quebec City on Aug. 20. The far-right anti-immigration and anti-Islam group gathered in a parking garage, but were confronted and blocked in by hundreds of anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrators. Riot police declared the counter-demonstration illegal and clashed with Antifa militants, enabling La Meute to carry out their march.

Universities

In the U.S., the fascist offensive is centered as much on the campuses as it is in the streets. Fascists use bogus arguments about ‘free speech’ to win recruits and advocate terror, hoping to intimidate faculty and students organizing against scapegoating.

At some American universities, outspoken anti-racist and anti-fascist faculty members have been harassed, disciplined or fired by university administrators.

At Dartmouth College in the U.S., Professor Mark Bray, author of the recently published Anti-Fascist Handbook, has been publicly vilified and harassed for his anti-fascist scholarship and activism.

Other academics have been targeted by death threats. For example, Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an outspoken critic of Trump and author of #From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, says she has “received emails that promised I would be lynched, shot and raped” — forcing her employer, Princeton University, to take special measures to protect her safety.

At Carleton, the Canadian chapter of anti-immigration group Generation Identity, which organizes around “re-instilling traditional western values,” put up posters on Sept. 11. The posters were torn down and a joint statement condemning them was issued by the undergraduate and graduate student unions.

“The Graduate Students’ Association recognizes that campuses are not immune to racism and xenophobia,” said Jenna Amirault, vice-president external of the GSA. “But Carleton students have a long history of standing up against hate on-campus. We encourage students to get involved with their students’ union and take action against racism and other forms of oppression.”

Campus-Based Initiatives

All this action explains the growing interest among Carleton activists in a new Campus Anti-Fascist Network (CAN). CAN which started in the U.S. but is now expanding into Canada. CAN differs from existing Ottawa anti-fascist groups in at least two ways. First, it is campus-based, seeking to build a broad alliance between faculty, students and staff to mobilize against fascist intimidation (whether on or off campus).

Second, CAN encourages activists to go beyond periodic mass mobilizations against fascism to conduct ongoing public education about the nature of fascism — and the social and economic conditions that make scapegoating possible.

Significantly, CAN has produced a syllabus on the history and nature of fascism for campus activists to use in organizing teach-ins, reading groups, workshops and strategy sessions. The goal is to build understanding about the history and nature of fascism as well as strategies to end its threat.

Anti-racist activists are already planning to create a campus-based anti-fascist group, perhaps based on the CAN model. In the meantime, you can learn more about CAN at http://campusantifascistnetwork.com/

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 10, No. 1 (Sept/Oct 2017).

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