While many students prepared for a turkey feast, Anti-Racist Calgary braved the freezing winds Saturday to rally against what they say is fascism in the community of Bridgeland.
Surrounded by journalism students and police officers on bikes, a dozen protestors marched down 1st Ave. N.E., handed out leaflets and held discussions with Bridgeland residents about the dangers of local neo-Nazi group, the Aryan Guard. Despite past violence between ARA members and the self-billed "white civil rights activist group," there were no incidents.
The protest took place after ARA spokesperson Jason Devine, a father of four, was targeted in an alleged hate crime in late September. A cement block was thrown through the family's front window and a swastika was spray-painted on the front door.
Devine said he believes other members of the ARA have been harassed by Guard members, and explained the group decided on a march in Bridgeland after discovering several Aryan Guard members lived there.
"We are holding a rally in Bridgeland because there has been a continuing presence of neo-Nazis there," said Devine. "People have had their pictures taken by these racists, been followed around by them, and it looks like more than a few live in the neighbourhood."
Devine said the AG founders decided to move to Calgary because of the city's economic boom and Alberta's conservative slant. The stereotype of Calgary as a "cowboy town," he said, makes it easy for neo-Nazis to establish a base here.
"[The boom] provided a material incentive and base for them to set up shop here," he said. "I think the other side of the coin is Alberta's unfortunate reputation as a conservative backwater. Alberta is seen as the 'Texas of Canada,' and Calgary as its capital."
Despite the snow, Devine was impressed with the march. He mentioned one incident when the police tried to ticket a marcher for jaywalking, but relented after the marchers protested.
"Today's march was successful: many, many leaflets were handed out and delivered, great discussions took place regarding neo-Nazism, and some new contacts were made," said Devine.
"[The Aryan Guard] knew about it and it's the only rally where I [have] neither seen, nor heard their presence."
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada member Kevan Hunter thinks AG members living in Bridgeland don't want to draw attention to their presence in the community.
"Speaking with people in the community about dangers of fascism will make it more difficult for these gangs to organize," said Hunter.
University of Calgary fourth-year political science student Andre Galaghen joined protesters, out of a desire to do something about racism in Calgary. She was concerned the city has not taken action against the controversial group.
"This is an issue that is not being taken seriously," said Galaghen.
Calgary Police Service inspector V. Trickett, who did not want to share his first name, said the CPS was there to maintain public safety with a balanced approach, pointing to the constitutional right of freedom of peaceful assembly.