A group of far-right anti-Islam protesters attempting to flex their power on the streets of Hamilton were met with sharp counter-resistance and a massive police presence on Sunday. The failed “Patriot Walk on Lock” was largely derailed thanks to a 1,200-word anti-racist blog post that looks straight out of 2009.
The pushback was so intense that the “patriots” attempted to reschedule their event but in haste forgot to tell the people attending—leaving lots of their supporters high and dry.
To get the full story about how a single blog could spook the far-right, we have to go back to two weeks ago when a group of anarchists calling themselves “The Ungovernables” marched down Hamilton’s Locke Street causing $100,000 in damages. In response, this group of nationalists who have unifiyed over anti-Islam worldviews decided to have a march of their own in solidarity with the small businesses that line the street. Many groups like this (even more extreme groups like the KKK and the Heritage Front) typically perform charitable activities for propaganda and recruitment.
The group was planning on keeping their march largely under wraps and then loudly claiming victory to the media afterwards. Instead, the anti-fascist network in Hamilton was informed of the march and organized a large counter-protest, which was picked up by local media. This, in turn, caused Hamilton Police to have a large show of force and ship in officers from Toronto and Waterloo.
The far-right groups were embarrassed and divided by the forced time change, a group did walk Locke earlier in the morning but only five showed up at the park to confront counter-protests. About 150 counter-protesters—some communists, some anti-fascists, some labour organizers—showed up and held their own march. No arrests or injuries were reported but there were minor skirmishes with police—you can read a thorough recap of the counter-protest march here.
While the group that showed in the morning claimed victory there is no way to describe their march other than a humiliating and abject failure. This failure was handed out in no small way by a little blog that, in recent days, has been getting a big readership—Anti-Racist Canada.
The man who runs Anti-Racist Canada (commonly referred to as ARC) asked to be referred to as Alex and told VICE that he received the information, alongside a few other people, sometime last weekend. It has been over 10 years since Alex began running the blog. He started out as an anti-racist activist against Heritage Front and moved online to fight Stormfront in the early days. Over the years people have worked with him but the constant on the site has been him.
“My big goal was to disrupt this kind of event,” he told VICE. “I figured if it was made public then it might cause some of these individuals to rethink their actions, certainly there was a lot of talk on the group chat about confronting the anti-fascists violently.”
It has since become the third most popular article on his website and, at the time of writing, has been seen 93,000 times.
“It was obviously an effort to try and cleanse their image, to make themselves like the good guys. So I wanted to minimize that and I wanted to make sure the people were well aware of who these people really were and what they do and what they believe."
The lengthy post features quotes from the organizers of the walk—leaders from multiple far-right and patriot groups—discussing, in a private message, the walk, the goal of it, fighting with “Antifa” if it comes to it, and possibly heading to an anarchist bookstore for confrontation afterwards.
“The message is we’re bigger, and fuck around, we’re badder,” reads one of the messages from the organizer regarding Antifa. “[It will be] 120 lbs beta males vs beer drinking, whiskey-chugging, hot bitches fucking, bar fighting, powerlifting, gun shooting alpha males.”
Alex describes the groups involved as having different belief systems that overlap at some points (mainly over their fear of Islam), who have come together because they’re “desperate to be seen as tough brave patriots when in reality they're just cosplayers.” Seeing their behind-the-scenes discussion is as enlightening as it is humorous.
Alex is quick to say that many others worked to disrupt the march and didn’t want to take full credit for what he described as a “success” but it’s impossible to ignore the impact of his blog.
While Alex considers himself an activist, his work is typically covert. He monitors and publishes information about these groups—he does this through an elaborate network involving moles and sock puppet accounts. Alex told VICE he doesn’t see himself as a journalist and laments traditional coverage of groups like the Soldiers of Odin, the III%, or the Proud Boys, especially when journalists “try to present 'both sides' as if both sides have an equal voice.”
“It's a philosophy that often leads into anti-Semitism and overt racism—that's one side. The other side is the people who want to stop them, I'm not going to weigh both sides as being equal. I think one side is morally superior to the other and I try and present it such a way,” Alex said.
Alex tends to make fun of the people he describes as “bigots” in his blog posts, which has turned him into a regular target of the groups. He also tries to play mind games with members of these groups—in the Hamilton blog post he challenges them to try and figure out how he got their private messages, suggesting, among other things, that one of the leaders is a turncoat or one of them forgot to log off a public computer.
“Sometimes I like to poke the bear a little bit," he said of the tactic. "Obviously if I can cause any more internal dissension, well, all the better for us."
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