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Shut down hate

Sep 27, 2017

Local labour leaders have called a “Shut Down Hate” rally to counter Islamophobia and anti-immigrant activities which have surfaced repeatedly in Hamilton since the election of Donald Trump. The move by the Hamilton and District Labour Council extends their commitment to drown out racist and fascist groups who are attempting to organize in Hamilton. 

“If we are willing to stand up for our own members, we should be willing to stand up for members of our community,” HDLC president Anthony Marco told last week’s meeting of the council. “If we are willing to do that, then we can make a difference very quickly.” 

The public rally is being held in Gore Park on Saturday, September 30 from noon to 1 pm. That will allow participants to also go to the Gandhi Peace Festival that starts at 1:30 pm at Hamilton City Hall. The labour council is encouraging its members to attend both events.

About twenty-five union locals have embraced the Stamp out Hate rally and information session and more are expected to join in. Although not yet formally contacted by the labour council, some community groups are also expressing support.

“Even without asking Environment Hamilton, Hamilton 350 Committee and the Hamilton chapter of the Council of Canadians have already said that they want to endorse,” Marco said, and confirmed that the HDLC will be actively seeking allies after Saturday’s initial rally. 

The rally helps fulfill a labour council pledge made last May in response to the killings of six people at a Quebec City mosque that were also denounced by a city hall rally of over 1000 people pulled together on a couple of days notice. An HDLC statement at the time promised to “challenge Islamophobia anywhere it appears” and work to counter hate groups.

“If left unchallenged, racist rhetoric and actions can stir up anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Indigenous sentiment,” the statement warned. “In times of economic downturn and diminishing opportunity, the seeds of division are fertilized by the same sections of the corporate elite who seek to divide working people. We have seen how right-wing populism can take hold, especially when people are frustrated with economic injustice.”

Hamilton has seen more than its share of major race-based hate crimes including the recent attempt to burn down a mountain mosque and the torching of the Hindu Samaj temple in 2001. Statistics Canada figures on police-reported hate crimes show Hamilton at more than four times the national rate.

An attempted public rally by the anti-Muslim “Canadian Combat Coalition” in late July at City Hall was met with a much larger number of anti-racists. “Security” for the anti-Muslim group was provided by the “Canadian Three Percenters”. That led ward three councillor Matt Green to call for a ban on private security forces on city property. 

Local groups accused of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant activity have formed and broken up rapidly over the last year but often have common membership and objectives. The multiple organizational names include Sons of Odin, Proud Boys, Soldiers of Odin and Canadians United for Canada. So-called “park patrols” are one of their more frequent activities.

The HDLC strategy is to create a network of individuals willing to act against public activities of racist and anti-immigrant groups, and then notify them whenever one is scheduled.

“They usually get about 15-20 people and if we show up, taking pictures, with 100 people carrying signs and flags, their rally is over.” HDLC president Marco explained. “The message is that labour is stepping up. If there’s a racist group or fascist group then we are on the lookout for you.” 

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