On Saturday, Nov. 25, Quebec City was once again the scene of a demonstration where fascists and the far right showed their hideous face. The groups La Meute and Storm Alliance joined forces to spit their poison, and were joined by the neo-fascists of Atalante Quebec and III%. Not only were these groups able to march freely and spread their hate, but they did so with the open complicity of the Quebec City police.
A united front
As the Quebec Liberal Party Congress unfolded, these far-right groups joined forces to denounce the Couillard government. About 100 protesters from the far-right Storm Alliance took to the streets, followed by about 200 protesters from La Meute roughly 200 meters behind. The demonstrators from Storm Alliance chanted slogans like “Couillard out” and “Liberty,” and sang “La Marseillaise”. The members of La Meute, for their part, had insisted on having their separate contingent. They were there to denounce the now-defunct consultation on systemic racism and demand a complete ban on the burqa and niqab in any public place in Quebec. Both groups had their own security for the occasion.
While these two groups were marching, Atalante Quebec was seen atop the ramparts of the old city. Forty of them were gathered with black flags and Quebec flags, and unfurled a huge banner reading “Quebec for Quebecers!” They later joined the protesters of La Meute and Storm Alliance in front of the Parliament Building.
If La Meute and Storm Alliance try to hide their far-right speech behind a veil of respectability, the same can not be said of Atalante. This neo-fascist group describes itself as a “nationalist revolutionary and identity movement” that wants to “create the new warrior aristocracy of tomorrow.”
However, their presence in the rally did not seem to be a problem. Storm Alliance President Dave Tregget made that clear: “According to the latest news, has Atalante committed any crimes? Did they do something wrong? […] They have a different ideology. One of the values we defend at Storm Alliance is freedom of expression. I do not defend Atalante, I do not denounce them either. They followed the rules.” Dave Tregget seems to forget, or ignore, that Atalante has acknowledged that some of its members have attacked far-left activists in the past. Although Storm Alliance denied its links with fascist groups, these links were clear to everyone on Nov. 25. This should serve as a warning to the left and the labour movement.
The police help the far right
In addition to relying on their own security service, La Meute and Storm Alliance protesters received help from the Quebec City police. The extreme-right demonstration met with the determined resistance of about 250 anti-racist counter-protesters. The police clearly showed which side they were on, leaving the counter-protesters no chance: they arrested 44, or about one-fifth of participants!
However members of III%, a far-right militia with cells in the United States and Canada, were also seen at the demonstration with batons in hand. The police do not seem to have thought it necessary to arrest them.
The police did not hide their collaboration with the far right, as explained by the Quebec City chief of police: “They (La Meute) told us their intentions, where did they want to go, their route, we have had regular exchanges and this is often what we do with our different groups of protesters.” These exchanges were no doubt facilitated by the fact that Jacques Gagné, chief of security for La Meute, is also a former Quebec City police officer.
While friendly relations developed with La Meute, the counter-demonstrators were subjected to the full force of the riot police. Luc Archambault describes his arrest and that of a woman who was with him, neither of whom had even come for the counter-demonstration. “After three minutes, I saw the riot police coming down on the Grande Allée side and knock down the peaceful protesters who were there. I did not know what to do. They arrested Gisele, a 65-year-old woman who is with us. They handcuffed her in the back and threw her on the ground in the slush,” he said.
These disgusting double standards reveal the role of the police in the fight against fascism and the extreme right. The police are not on our side: under the guise of defending the right of these groups to express themselves, they act as their body guards and use the opportunity to terroize leftwing demonstrators.
The silence of the establishment
The CAQ and the PQ were careful not to comment on Saturday’s protest. The Liberals, for their part, said they did not want to give more attention to these groups than needed.
Despite this, the Liberals took the time to commend the role of the police during the protest. Public Safety Minister Martin Coiteux said, “The police are doing the job they need to do. I think you have noticed one thing today: They are well deployed, they ensure the safety of people. They do a great job and I congratulate them.” He added: “Whatever the ideas, what is important is to defend them peacefully and with respect for people and laws. If there were arrests, it’s because there were people who did not demonstrate peacefully.” This is the same argument used by Storm Alliance to excuse the warm reception given to the Atalante activists when they joined their contingent!
One thing has been conveniently ignored as La Meute and Storm Alliance have become more vocal in recent months. The shooting in Quebec City last January, when six Muslims were shot dead, was committed by a far-right terrorist inspired by ideas similar to these groups. The establishment and the police openly protect those who inspired this attack.
The complicity of the establishment should not surprise us. We can have no confidence in the bourgeois parties to fight against the far right. These are the same parties that have been fueling Islamophobia and xenophobia for years, the most recent example being the Liberals’ Bill 62. The respectable xenophobic discourse of the big parties makes it possible to legitimize and normalize the ideas of right-wing extremist groups.
Let’s mobilize en masse against the extreme right!
According to the authorities, it would seem that once again that the counter-demonstrators were less numerous than the demonstrators of the extreme right. This is deplorable, especially given that since the Charlottesville demonstration last summer, almost all of the far-right demonstrations in North America have been overwhelmed by much larger counter-demonstrations. How can this be explained?
We have already explained that what can silence the fascists and their allies is a movement capable of involving the masses of workers and youth. Above all, it is the unions that have the resources and the mobilization capacity to organize resistance to groups like La Meute, Storm Alliance and Atalante. We saw it this summer, for example, when San Francisco dockers threatened a walkout to stop a far-right demonstration. The main left-wing organizations, notably Québec solidaire, also have an important responsibility in this fight.
So far, many voices have been raised about the fact that far-right groups have gained confidence. Jacques Létourneau, CSN, spoke of the need for the trade union movement to fight against hatred and intolerance. Similarly, Manon Massé, from Quebec Solidaire, said at the party’s convention late last week that it would “not give an inch” to La Meute and Atalante. But unfortunately, very little has been done to move from words to deeds. Also, not a word was said by QS leadership or unions about open police collaboration with the far right during the protest. The organized labour movement has been conspicuous in its absence.
The leader of La Meute, Sylvain Brouillette, spoke of the event as a “great success.” However, it is sufficient to contrast the anti-racist demonstration of Nov. 12, which attracted several thousand people, with the meagre contingent of the far right on Nov. 25 to see that the balance of power is clearly in our favour.
However that does not mean that we have to let the far right and the fascists demonstrate without doing anything. These groups will not leave the scene themselves. We are talking about groups that have attacked left-wing activists in the past, and their allies who cover them with a veil of respectability. The courageous anti-racist activists who were present on Nov. 25 will not be able to defeat the extreme right alone. Workers’ organizations have the responsibility to mobilize their members to stop the extreme right. Québec solidaire should also appeal to the mass mobilization against these scum. We have the duty to organize mass demonstrations every time they try to take the street.
We are at a time when all the major parties are using racism and Islamophobia to divert our attention from their austerity and anti-worker policies, and in the process boosting the confidence of far-right groups. Racism is a tool of the ruling class in its struggle to divide the working class. We must resist these attempts to divide us! This involves linking the fight against small groups like La Meute and Storm Alliance to a broader struggle against the establishment parties and the capitalist system they protect. As Malcolm X said so well, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.” The fight against racism must therefore be a struggle to get rid of capitalism itself!