Fighting Hatred

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June 8 was a bad day for neo-Nazis. They were expecting a fun-loving congregation of like-minded individuals in Toronto. What they got was an anti-racist picket line that put a cramp in their plans to obtain the secret location of a skinhead concert, planned for that night, somewhere in the Toronto area.

The anti-racist picket was organized by the Anti-Racist Action (ARA), a Toronto anti-oppression group. The ARA formed a decade ago in reaction to neo-Nazi violence on the streets and bids for mainstream credibility by white supremacist groups like the Heritage Front. Since then, they have disrupted and shut down dozens of neo-Nazi concerts, meetings, rallies and demonstrations.

On June 8, according to the ARA, roughly 150 neo-Nazis from Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and Michigan state were expected to meet at a hotel in Scarborough, just outside Toronto. From there, they would be given the location of the underground concert featuring such bands as Angry Aryans and Blue-Eyed Devils.

While most cars with suspected Nazis quickly turned around when they saw the picket, one suspected male told a demonstrator who confronted him that he was part of a bowling league, though he was unable to remember the name of their team or where they regularly played.

The ARA, along with other anti-racist groups, routinely keep tabs on fascist organizations and use information gathered from the Internet and from informants to keep abreast of their activities — like these kinds of concerts.

ARA supporter talks with police

“Music is a huge recruitment tool for the neo-Nazi movement,” says Bonnie Burstow, an anti-racist researcher from the University of Toronto. “Kids get hooked on the lyrics and then they get involved.”

And they get violent.

In 1993, after the fascist band, Aryan, played in Toronto, three neo-Nazis beat Sivarajah Vinasithambly into paralysis. Vinasithambly, a Tamil refugee, was taking out the garbage behind the restaurant where he worked when he was attacked. Anti-racist activists want to prevent such attacks from happening again.

Kristin, an ARA organizer, fears the white supremacist movement is trying to establish itself in Toronto again. “It has been a long time since we’ve had to organize an event like this; the neo-Nazi movement has been on the retreat for the past few years.”

While the secrecy that these groups work under — now the norm due to anti-racist organizing — is a tribute to activists’ work, the June 8 show did go on. But the activists managed to stall the show and to make their presence known.

In today’s political climate, hate-based groups are gaining momentum, pressuring anti-racist groups to once again hit the streets. “We’re seeing a rise in world-wide hatred and fear; people have to make the connection where they live,” says Alexis, a student activist. “We have to fight hatred and fear in our own communities.”

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