Atalante Québec's imagery borrows heavily from European white nationalist movements. One of its slogans, “Exister c'est combattre ce qui me nie” is a quote from French nationalist Dominique Venner. This photo appears on the fascist organization's Facebook page.
A Montreal couple is filing a police report after they were attacked and had their lives threatened by defenders of a fascist group last weekend.
“Matthew” and his girlfriend were out for a night on the town Saturday when they walked into an Ontario St. pub and noticed something strange; a table full of black-clad men and women, most of them heavily tattooed and wearing shirts that read “Québec au Québécois.”
“At first I thought they were just (Quebec) nationalists, but when I heard what they were saying, it was clear they were more like skinheads,” said Matthew, who does not want his real name published for fear of reprisals.
“We had to leave the bar because I wanted to confront them and it just wasn’t worth it.”
They walked for a few blocks and settled at a bar in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district. As he sat on a terrace facing the street, Matthew saw five people putting up stickers for the far-right group Atalante Québec. He said he recognized them from earlier that night.
“I probably shouldn’t have said anything, but I told them their ideology is shit,” he said. “Things escalated quickly.”
One of the men slapped Matthew in the face and before he could react, the others started shoving his girlfriend and then knocked him over.
“My girlfriend is Latin American, so they started telling her to go back to her country,” said Matthew. “Then one of them — he was a big dude with a spider web tattoo and really short hair — said something like ‘If you don’t get the f*** out of here I’ll kill you.’”
Atalante Québec would not say if their members were involved in the attack. They did not respond to repeated interview requests from the Montreal Gazette.
The group is based out of Quebec City, but has been active in Montreal for months. Last May, masked Atalante members ransacked VICE News’ downtown office, threw papers at reporters and shouted them down.
Raphäel Levesque, their leader, was charged with intimidation for his alleged role in the incident. He’s scheduled to appear in court this month.
Levesque — also known as Raf Stomper — has served a prison sentence for drug trafficking. He was a founding member of the skinhead band Légitime Violence, whose lyrics allude to fighting immigrants and starting a new Holocaust.
Last year, someone calling themselves Raf Stomper threatened to burn down the offices of the province’s anti-radicalization force if it set up shop in Quebec City.
Atalante members have also attended rallies at the Quebec-U.S. border to protest against Muslim asylum seekers coming into Canada.
Montreal police will not say if they’re investigating Atalante’s activities.
“From an intelligence perspective, it’s entirely likely that the Montreal police and the Sûreté du Québec have taken a much larger interest in their activities,” said Richard Warman, a human rights lawyer who fights against online hate propaganda.
“It’s one thing when they’re simply engaging in border harassment of migrants coming into Quebec, it’s another thing entirely when you start storming journalists’ offices in a gang format — wearing masks — and start committing fairly serious criminal offences.
“In this case, members or supporters are threatening people with death for taking down a sticker, they’re pushing themselves up the police’s list of people of interest.”
Though Atalante refused to comment on the alleged attack, it posted an online response to the Montreal Gazette’s initial report. The post acknowledges its members were in the city for a “militant day” Saturday, but that allegations of Atalante members engaged in violence are unfounded.
The “Anglo-Saxon” media, according to Atalante, is stirring up resentment of “French Canadian nationalists.”
Warman says Atalante is part of a resurgence, in Quebec, of right-wing hate groups. In May, the Montreal Gazette reported that one of North America’s most prominent white nationalists lives in Montreal and organized white-supremacist meetings on the island.
The meetings included members of Atalante, but also La Meute, Soldiers of Odin and Storm Alliance.
Much of the propaganda these groups use focuses on “radical Islam” and migrants, which Warman calls “a strategic choice.”
“(Muslims) are a more socially acceptable target than Jewish people or people of colour,” said Warman, a board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “But make no mistake about it, that’s just a shifting focus. Their ideology targets all kinds of minority and religious groups.”
A member of the left-wing group Montréal Antifasciste said they removed 150 Atalante stickers in and around the Hochelaga Maisonneuve district Sunday.
Matthew, who said Saturday’s attack traumatized his girlfriend, stated he is confused about how to fight back against groups like Atalante. On Saturday, he chose to place himself between the assailants and his girlfriend instead of striking back.
Bystanders mostly just sat in stunned silence, watching as five assailants swarmed the couple.
“When it was over, I just wondered how we can chase these groups out of our city,” he said. “I spoke to the manager at the first bar and he said (Atalante’s) presence really upset the staff and if they came back they’d get really bad service.
“But we have to do more than that. We have to be able to take a stand, we have to fight back.”