December 18 was supposed to be a day for the Toronto far-right. Featuring demagogues Maxime Bernier and Randy Hillier, a conservative students’ club organized a “freedom” rally on the X University campus (formerly Ryerson U) to protest public health measures designed to fight Covid-19 and to deny the reality of Indigenous genocide.
Instead, that blustery Saturday afternoon in downtown Toronto belonged to a United Front comprised of revolutionary socialist organizations, local labour unions, anti-hate groups, and more.
The Fightback Chapter at X University initiated the rally as a counter-protest — to say no to Indigenous genocide denial, no to anti-vax mobs harassing health care workers and students, no to the far-right that cares more about statues than about dead Indigenous children. Labour organizations like the Toronto and York Region Labour Council co-sponsored the rally, while revolutionary leftists prepared a disciplined United Front stand against fascism.
When the Canada Anti-Hate Network published communications among white supremacists and fascists, including members of the Plaid Army and Canada First, which planned to physically assault counter-protestors, the Ryerson Campus Conservatives cancelled the rally and Maxime Bernier bailed out.
Rather than cancel the counter-demonstration, sponsoring groups instead opted to hold a victory rally to denounce Indigenous genocide, Indigenous genocide denial, and anti-public health rhetoric. Members of Socialist Action displayed a banner that proclaimed “Smash Racism. No Platform for Fascists.”
Over 100 people assembled to celebrate a victory over the far-right, with the rally held on the spot where a statue of Egerton Ryerson once stood. Until recently, X University was named after Ryerson, the architect of the residential ‘school’ system that perpetrated genocide against Indigenous peoples. Shortly after the discovery of hundreds (and now thousands) of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools across Canada, protesters toppled and beheaded the statue of Ryerson and pushed university officials to rename the institution. This act drew the ire of groups like the Bernier-led People’s Party of Canada, which wants to erase the history of Indigenous genocide to prop up the white-supremacist, patriarchal capitalist system.
Although the fascists were conspicuously absent when speeches and chants began, a crowd of marching anti-vaxxers later attempted to disrupt the rally. Instead, they faced a line of a dozen marshals, holding their ground. The latter hailed from numerous sponsoring groups, including Socialist Action, which forced the march to veer off. You can see this moment here. A few well-known fascists loitered around the scene before slinking away.
Daniel Tarade, Toronto branch organizer for Socialist Action, spoke to the crowd about the connection between capitalism and the ongoing acts of Indigenous genocide and vaccine apartheid, the failure of mass labour organizations to confront the failures of capitalism, the rise of fascism, and the need for a United Front approach. Watch the speech here.