Messages of love, acceptance and resilience filled the streets surrounding Vancouver’s city hall during an anti-racism rally Saturday.
More than 4,000 anti-racism demonstrators gathered outside the city hall in response to an extreme right wing rally that was planned for Saturday afternoon – one week after racially motivated protests in Charlottesville, Va, turned deadly.
The anti-Islam protest, organized by the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam’s Canadian chapter, as well as the Cultural Action Party of Canada, was expected to include members from the Soldiers of Odin.
But it never materialized, aside from less than a dozen anti-Islam protesters who showed up individually throughout the afternoon. Each time, they were quickly escorted out of the area by police following verbal confrontations with counter demonstrators.
Instead, several activists spoke on the importance of inclusion, support and a need to stand up to bigotry and racism now more than ever.
Among the crowd, Surrey resident Karla Lottini stood with her two daughters, Nicte and Ambar Casso, holding a sign that read: “Racism hurts, we are all beautiful” and “kids love kids no matter our color of skin.”
Lottini and her family immigrated to Canada from Mexico as a refugee four years ago. The recent far-right protests in the U.S. – a country who’s president campaigned to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, has hit a nerve for Lottini, she said.
But B.C. isn’t clean of systemic racism either, despite many Canadians taking solace living in a country that boasts its multiculturalism, she said.
“It’s very anachronic to go back to white supremacy,” she said. “This is not just a United States problem.”
Lottini said her daughters have shared stories of racially-motivated bullying at their elementary French-immersion school, and fears the day that discriminatory hate is cast on her children.
“I don’t want my daughters, or the friends of my daughters, to get hurt.”
She brought her daughters to the rally to share how powerful positive messages can be.
“We have to get involved,” she said, “because we’re a mix of cultures and colours and diverse types of lifestyles and we should respect each other. It’s about freedom and love and peace.”
The afternoon-long rally stayed peaceful. Five were arrested for breach of the peace and two were escorted out of the rally to prevent a disturbance, police said in a statement.
With files from the Canadian Press.