An anticipated confrontation between one of Quebec’s most notorious right wing groups and opponents did not materialize on Sunday, with anti-fascist demonstrators instead facing off with police in Quebec City, as members of La Meute were holed up in a parking garage for hours.
Officials said one person was arrested and three police officers were treated for exposure to a chemical irritant allegedly launched by the protesters.
When they finally emerged, La Meute — or Wolf Pack — walked silently through city streets, carrying black flags adorned with a white wolf paw, in protest of what they see as unchecked immigration.
VICE News Reporter Simon Coutu embedded with an antifa group and provides an inside look at how their day unfolded.
On Sunday morning, I went to Quebec City with four anti-fascist militants who were planning to protest against La Meute. The ultra-nationalist identity group organized a march against the arrival of thousands of illegal immigrants, mainly Haitians, who had arrived in Quebec from the United States since the beginning of the summer. I wanted to understand better the so-called antifas. In the car, my fellow passengers assured me I was about to witness a big confrontation.
“The goal is to block La Meute,” one of them told me. “We do not want them to march, period. For us, the Nazis are our sworn enemy. They have to know that no matter where they are, they will not have peace.”
As we drove, the four people in the car prepared foam armbands to protect themselves from possible altercations. They claimed the only weapons they had were flags. For them, violence is a strategy like any other.
“Alerta, alerta, antifascista!”
“There is no negotiation with the Nazis and the fascists,” explained another militant, who was masked as soon as I arrived in the car. “This is unacceptable. The antifas and the black bloc, we are there to protect the demonstration.”
We had just heard that La Meute would gather in the underground parking lot of Complexe Marie-Guyart, a few meters from the Quebec house of parliament. The Quebec City Police Service recommended this location, to ensure their safety. Once the group I was travelling with arrived in Quebec City, they had to join the “comrades” from Quebec City and from Saguenay. At that time, it still wasn’t clear how many anti-fascist demonstrators were on the ground.
The group dressed in black (with a hint of red for the communists) then headed for Place d’Youville, where the demonstration against racism organized by community groups had gathered. Just before arriving, everyone donned masks, took out the banners and began to shout: “Alerta, alerta, antifascista!” Three buses of Montreal antifas were already at the meeting point of La Meute, and had decided to go rogue. My carpool friends were informed by phone that the riot squad had circled them. Although the anti-racism demonstration provided an itinerary for the police, anti-fascist elements that were taking part quickly set the tone. The first steps of the march were mellow and festive, but eventually it turned into a confrontation against the police. The march was immediately declared illegal by the Quebec police.
“I am not disappointed that, in the end it is only a clash between the antifas and the police,
Masked, the antifas used the black block tactic: They launched projectiles and pyrotechnics at the police, who replied with cayenne pepper spray. Some antifas also had pepper spray bottles. They walked on Grande-Allée, one of the most popular streets in the city that was crowded with tourists on this sunny Sunday. The antifas threw garbage cans and deckchairs at the policemen. One demonstrator smashed the camera of a Global network reporter and some individuals suspected of being “Collabos of The Pack” were savagely attacked and sprayed with black paint by the antifas. “I am not disappointed that, in the end it is only a clash between the antifas and the police,” one female protester told me. “The police are at the service of the fascists. But it sucks because I came to Quebec City to prevent La Meute and its racist ideas from taking over the streets.”
The right-wing group, confined in its parking lot, had still not emerged. Word spread that there were several hundred holed up in a space without ventilation, waiting for things to calm down outside. If they had gone out in the early afternoon, the area around parliament would probably have turned into a battlefield. For two hours, anti-riot police controlled the protesters. The crowd shouted slogans and insulted the policemen. Longtime activist Jaggi Singh was arrested after trying to push through the police line. Demonstrators outside the parking lot shouted insults at anyone who showed up late, like Stéphanie Fortin, a woman in her 40s, who came from Shawinigan expressly to demonstrate with La Meute. She arrived a little too late and was never able to join the other members of the group in the parking lot since the police did not let anyone in.
“We do not want them to settle down with their laws and to take away our culture, our crucifixes, our Christmas trees.”
“It’s humiliating to be called racist,” she told me. “We do not want to be invaded by immigrants. We do not want them to settle down with their laws and to take away our culture, our crucifixes, our Christmas trees. We want to keep our human rights. “
The counter-demonstration ended when the police, using shields and pepper spray, decided to repel the protesters towards René-Lévesque Boulevard. After three hours of demonstrations, just a few dozen remained. That’s when I lost my carpool friends. Two hours later, after consultations with Quebec police, members of La Meute finally came out of their den. They came from all over Quebec to express their anger over the arrival of more than 10,000 migrants over the course of the summer from the United States. A few hundred people walked silently in the streets of Quebec, with their black flags adorned with a white wolf’s paw, the symbol of La Meute. They were escorted by their own security service, identified by group’s colours, which prevented anyone who wanted to approach the procession. Their spokesman, Sylvain Brouillette, led the march and seemed very proud to finally take the street.
“We’re defenders of free speech, but when you start breaking stuff the way antifa did, that’s when you become a criminal. The group that opposes us call us racist, but they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re obviously being manipulated by more powerful interests. Their violence helps us. We’re non-violent and we just want the right to express ourselves.”
The short walk was calm and ended in front of the famous parking lot where they had been locked up all day — the same place where a few hours earlier, the counter-demonstration had confronted police, trying to access the militants of The Pack.
But at 7pm, most of the antifas had already left the city by bus.
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