Anti-racist groups rally outside courthouse for neo-Nazi trial

Nearly 50 people rallied outside the provincial courthouse this morning to protest members of the white supremacist group Blood and Honour, who are on trial for a string of assaults, including setting a Filipino man on fire --then beating a black man who came to the rescue, in 2009.

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Organized by a number of Filipino groups in the Kalayaan Centre, the rally called for tougher police and government action against organized hate groups in B.C. Inside the courtroom, lawyers for the accused -- Robertson De Chazal and Alastair Miller – appeared, and the case was postponed until March 12.

“We're here to stand and condemn all acts of violence and racism-based hate crimes,” said Christina Panis, from the Philippine Women's Centre of B.C., which organized the demonstration. “Unfortunately, this (racism) is a reality of migrant and immigrant communities in 2012.

“This is a matter of public safety that's not being taken seriously. We need a resurgence of activism and organizing in the community, so we're not complacent but proactive – not reactive – to racist events.”

Delay in charging white supremacists

Ana Linares, speaking on behalf of the Raíces Latin American cultural society, questioned why it took three years to charge the Blood and Honour members, when so many police resources were being poured into catching Stanley Cup hockey rioters.

“Supposedly, we live in a multicultural society, but often these multicultural policies tend to focus on superficial aspects of our differences – our clothing, our food, our music,” Linares said. “Sure, those are great things to share, but we never really talk about racism in itself in our education system and communities. It impacts all communities regardless of the colour of your skin.”

“I find it appalling that we live in a society that values private property more than it does human dignity. It's time that all marginalized communities and anti-racist communities come together.”

The protesters were buoyed by a donation of free coffee for their cause by J.J. Bean on Commercial Drive, where the series of assaults on people of colour – including Hispanic, black and First Nations individuals – took place. Members of the Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance and the Philippine Women's Centre led boisterous chants as another group carried a banner reading “Nazis [expletive] off.”

Confronting neo-Nazis in public

Members of that group – who wore masks on their faces – said they have protested outside many neo-Nazi trials before, and handed out pamphlets explaining their actions as well as why they were wearing face-coverings.

“Whenever fascists are organizing or active in public, we're there,” their pamphlet said. “We don't believe in ignoring them or staying away from them... Nip it in the bud.

“To protect our safety, we sometimes choose to wear masks so that we don't have to worry about fascist attacks based on identifying us or people close to us, outside of an action.”

Former Vancouver school trustee Jane Bouey attended the rally and said it's important for Vancouverites to speak out whenever white supremacists organize. She called on police to invest more resources into investigating hate groups and charging them.

“We need to do what we can to expose racism, both organized racism like this, but also systemic racism,” Bouey told the Vancouver Observer. “We need to educate people about what is going on – I think a lot of people don't know that these organizations exist – and try to pressure the government to take the neo-Nazi movement more seriously, and understand the danger it represents to all people.”

First Nations speak out in support

Before the rally wrapped up, Kat Norris of the Indigenous Action Movement – which helped publicize the demonstration – spoke about connections with First Nations struggles.

“I'm here to support the victims of assaults by the so-called white supremacists,” Norris told the Vancouver Observer.

“I'm outraged at people who assume a level of privilege based only on the colour of their skin. Everyone has a right to live and be on this earth, regardless of your skin colour.

“As an Indigenous person, I'm here to show my outrage, and that I'm not afraid to stand up for my people when one of our own was assaulted, or any people of colour. We need to show our support to the victims, and against racism. We're all one people. The justice system and police didn't take due care towards our missing women because of their status and their colour.”

Speakers at the protest said they will organize at the next trial date – March 12 – as well as for a community march against racism on March 18 for International Day against Racism Discrimination, organized by No One Is Illegal.

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