Soldiers of Odin Tangled with Anti-Racism Protesters in Vancouver

The scuffle ended with police leading members the anti-immigrant group away.

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Mar 27 2017, 4:44pm

As is becoming the norm in Canada, shit got heated at an anti-racism protest this weekend.

On Sunday, at an rally and march in Vancouver, a scuffle broke out after a group of people affiliated with the notorious anti-immigration group Soldiers of Odin made an appearance. While this is not the first time the group has disrupted an anti-racism event, it is, seemingly, the first time it has ended in violence in Canada.

According to Imtiaz Popat, one of the organizers of the International Day Against Racism march, members from the Soldiers of Odin and the UBC Free Speech Club started following the group and intimidating the marchers. Popat estimates that there was about a dozen or so in the group, and they were all clad in black except for a few with SOO patches on their clothing.

The march—led by the Pacific chapter of the Coalition Against Bigotry, Black Lives Matter Vancouver, Latinos in Action, Antifa Vancouver, and several other groups—ended in Vancouver's Victory Square, where NDP MP Jenny Kwan was set to give a speech to the crowd. Popat said the entire time the marchers were in the square Soldiers of Odin members were actively walking through the crowd. Before Kwan could start speaking a purple smoke bomb went off and shortly afterward the scuffle broke out.

"They were actively intimidating the crowd," Popat told VICE. "They started yelling and intimidating people. We started chanting back, and police didn't stop them until it got really bad, when they started actually being violent with people."

Several videos show the alleged SOO members making slow and steady marches through the crowd waving a large Canadian flag as people chant at them. One video captures the tail end of the scuffle. From what can be seen in the video, the fight centred around two men in particular but, in total, about six or seven people got into it. It appears as though the groups started shoving each other, and a select few decided to throw a pot shot or two before they were torn apart from each other.

Read more: Soldiers of Odin, Europe's Notorious Anti-Immigration Group, Is Beginning to Form Cells in Canada

All in all, the fight lasted less than 20 seconds before the Vancouver police broke it up. In the video, the whole situation ends with one man on his knees while an police officer holds him in a headlock. Popat said that the Soldiers know who he is and that one made a beeline for him when the fight broke out.

"It was scary," he said. "They wanted to scare us off but it didn't work, we stood our ground."

The International Day Against Racism march in Vancouver before shit went down. Photo via Coalition Against Bigotry.

If you're still in the dark about Soldiers of Odin, the group was founded in Finland in October 2015, by Mika Ranta, a self described white supremacist. The Canadian chapter opened several months later. The Canadian version attempts to paint themselves as different from the racist Finnish group, but the actions of the group and the strong anti-immigrant sentiment that runs through its veins have many calling the group racist and fascist.

Racist sentiments or not, the group fancies themselves a modern day Guardian Angels and do marches through major cities to protect their fellow citizen which some claim is an attempt to intimidate. Prior to this, the Soldiers typically would only go to events where their presence was wanted—such as anti-anti-islamophobia, and anti-M-103 rallies—but the group was clearly out of place in this sort of march.

Pophet said that this wasn't the first time they have seen the group at a Coalition Against Bigotry rally, but it was the first time "they actually infiltrated and attacked us."

"This is Soldiers of Odin, who claim to be not racist, right? We're seeing who they are now, they're a scary bunch," said Popat. "They're the KKK of today."

"They say they're for freedom of speech but they attacked our freedom of speech. People need to see for who they are, these alt-right people, these white supremacists, they are a scary bunch of people."

The British Columbia chapter of the Soldiers of Odin did not respond to VICE's request for comment.

Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.