Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 18/9/2017 (1215 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After its last rally was interrupted by AntiFa demonstrators, Winnipeg Alternative Media is planning another rally and says a group in Alberta that has been linked to anti-government extremists has offered to travel to Winnipeg to provide security for the event where confrontations are expected.
"It’s for free speech and against AntiFa and Nazism," said organizer Josh Sigurdson, who in 2013 co-founded the anti-mainstream media organization. It is organizing the rally in Winnipeg on Sept. 30, in response to a Sept. 9 rally outside the CBC building, he said by phone Monday. At it, the anti-mainstream group’s other co-founder, Todd McDougall, criticized "state-run media," on a bullhorn when he was allegedly assaulted and called a Nazi, Sigurdson said.
"We aren’t going to allow bullies to confront everyone who doesn’t have their views," Sigurdson said. The Sept. 9 rally was originally billed as a World Coalition Against Islam rally "against immigration" but was cancelled.
Winnipeg Alternative Media — which says it isn’t against immigration — showed up on its own outside the CBC to protest "war-mongering propaganda," Sigurdson said.
"AntiFa felt that was the same thing as banning Islam from Canada," Sigurdson said. The anti-fascist group had gotten the word out that it was holding a counter-protest against hate and its supporters went after McDougall, he said.
"A lot of gullible, young university students showed up," Sigurdson said.
McDougall was spat upon, pushed around and someone tried to pull down his pants, Sigurdson said.
"I want people to not be afraid to have different opinions and to be vocal about them and when they go out onto the streets, they’re not going to be beaten up or pushed into traffic," he said. "We want to have a conversation with these people and try to reason with them... we have nothing to do with Nazism but we’re being called Nazis."
He said some of the AntiFa supporters on Sept. 9 were waving "Maoist and Stalinist" communist flags. The AntiFa movement is comprised of militant anti-fascist groups that sometimes use violent or destructive tactics.
The rally planned for Sept. 30 outside city hall from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. is to "stand up against violent, childish communists waving AntiFa flags," Winnipeg Alternative Media said in a news release.
"Like many places throughout Canada and the United States, it has become impossible to express views at public rallies without this violent mob of mislead (sic) kids attacking and calling whoever’s speaking ‘oppressive’, ‘fascist’, ‘nazi’, ‘racist’ and every other buzzword under the sun with absolutely no evidence of their claims," the release said.
"We cannot stand for people with different views being muzzled," it said.
"We don’t just need visual diversity, but diversity of thought as well."
Sigurdson said some members of the LGBTTQ* and Muslim communities who don’t feel AntiFa speaks for them have said they will be at the rally.
The Sept. 30 event has been threatened with violence by AntiFa, Sigurdson said. An Alberta representative of the group known as Three Percenters has offered to provide security at the Winnipeg rally, he said.
"The Three Percenters are a freedom group that stand for individual liberty," Sigurdson said.
But according to the Anti-Defamation League in the U.S., Three Percenters are part of an anti-government extremist movement that promotes the idea that the federal government is plotting to take away the rights of American citizens and must be resisted. The league says the group has been trying to make inroads in the U.S. military.
In Canada, the group is on Facebook with a cover photo of a soldier carrying an assault rifle. The group’s profile picture is a skull and assault-rifles-as-cross-bones image with the slogan "come and take them" over the guns. The national page offers links to Three Percenters across Canada including Manitoba.
"We are a Patriot group of Canadians that love our country and want to preserve our rights and freedoms and free speech. Canadian Three Percenters are made up of Patriots from all over Canada and the U.S.A., we are a countrywide network from coast to coast," the group says.
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A photo posted on its timeline shows an armed soldier in front of a Canadian flag above text that reads, "It’s time to step on some toes and take our country back."
Sigurdson said he has been told by white nationalists as well as AntiFa representatives to expect confrontations. He said he wasn’t aware that the rally is being held on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the most important holiday in the Jewish faith.
"Interestingly we have quite a lot of Jewish folks coming out in support of us," he said in an email Monday afternoon.
"We are just looking to converse and try to aid the massive divide we are seeing today in the media from both sides of the spectrum," he said by email.
"Hopefully people will be civil."
Carol Sanders Legislature reporter
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Formed in late 2008 in the U.S. after the election of President Barack Obama, Three Percenters are a loosely-organized movement centred around the claim that only three per cent of the American population during the Revolutionary War participated as combatants in the war. The group asserts that they are a modern counterpart to that mythical three per cent of American Revolutionary-era patriots and also represent the three percent of the population of American gun owners "who will not disarm."
"The Three Percenters is a national organization made up of patriotic citizens who love their country, their freedoms, and their liberty," its Canadian Facebook page says. Manitoba has a Three Percenters page on Facebook that is closed and its administrator did not respond to a request for comment.
In Alberta, the movement goes by III% on Facebook and says, "We are committed to standing against and exposing corruption and injustice. We are NOT a militia. However, we do have meetings on local levels. These meetings are to help members network together and to learn from each other. Being a Three Percenter is more of a way of life rather than a club to join."
A recent VICE report says the Alberta group claims to meet on a weekly basis to train with live ammunition. The group "seemingly revolves around hating on AntiFa, the influx of refugees crossing Canada's borders and, most prominently, the possibility of an Islamic terrorist attack."
Source: III% Alberta; VICE; Anti-Defamation League