This article originally appeared on VICE CA.
A group of far-right activists targeted a vegan cafe in Quebec because they reportedly assumed it would be rife with antifascists.
On July 4, three activists in matching white shirts posed for photos outside Cafe Frida, a vegan restaurant in the Quebec city of Trois-Rivières, and posted them to their personal Facebook pages with a message that said: “Three guardians of QUEBEC at the very heart of the antifascist neighborhood sadly no tifafa [antifa] present.”
A separate post put up by the men shows posters on the cafe’s exterior advertising an upcoming far-right rally in the city. The caption reads: “We went by that spot in Trois-Rivières. Sadly we didn’t have the luck to meet any of you.” The post also says the cafe would be offering free drinks during the rally, which is untrue, according to the cafe owner.
The men are or have previously been associated with anti-immigrant groups Storm Alliance and Soldiers of Odin. In another photo the men say they say they scared the non-existent Antifa away. VICE reached out to one of the men who posted the images on Facebook but did not receive a response.
A police report has been filed by the cafe owner and a local police spokesperson told the CBC authorities “were not taking the incident lightly."
Gabrielle Cossette, the owner of the cafe, said the men showed up and scoped the place out.
“They posted the picture of them in front of Frida on their page and encouraged their supporters to 'pay us a visit' without actually paying,” Cossette told VICE. “The comments section got a bit frightening with a gun gif and few other threats. [The man] then kept posting about us inciting his supporters to come see us on [the day of the rally].”
Cossette said the cafe has no history of being political or associated with Antifa. “We never post about it, never talk about, never host anything about it. Never.
“They just ended up deciding that we were the far-left and automatically their enemy.”
The rally the men are promoting, La Vague Bleue, celebrates the passing of Bill 21, which bans public sector employees from wearing religious symbols. The event has distanced itself from the actions of the men.
Critics say the bill targets minorities and creates segregation by banning religious symbols like the hijab or turban from being worn by public workers. Quebec education minister Jean-François Roberge was recently criticized for tweeting that Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban, would have to remove her headscarf if she wanted to teach in the province.
“It should come as no surprise that hate groups support and champion this piece of hateful legislation,” said Evan Balgord, the director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “If members of hate groups are bold enough to target a cafe because they think anti-fascists go there, that speaks to how dangerous the situation is in Quebec right now.”
The Vague Bleue event is the second rally of its kind in recent times; the first took place in Montreal in May. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network reports that around 500 members of the far-right took part in the Montreal event.
Cossette said she is worried for her employees. She says she understands if they feel scared as the day of the rally draws near.
“These people are extremists,” she said. “They can be dangerous.”
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