A protest against a hate demonstration planned for Tuesday night was cancelled due to safety concerns, but a community organizer said a broader event against racism is in the works for late September.
Community members originally intended a direct counter to an event publicized by the Edmonton Chapter of Soldiers of Odin, a hate group rooted in the far-right.
The Soldiers announced a Sept. 11 “candlelight vigil” at the Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre via a Facebook event page titled “Infidels against Islam.” The event was actually held outside the entrance to Commonwealth Stadium.
“We didn’t have adequate time to ensure we had city employee support,” said counter-protest organizer Robbie Kreger-Smith, who immediately reached out to city officials when he heard of the Soldiers of Odin event.
Instead, Kreger-Smith said he is in conversations with councillors to hold a counter-rally around the end of September to stand up against hate in the city.
“It seems these events are becoming more frequent and prevalent,” he said. “How can we systematically address the issues that are being raised?”
City officials say there has been no contact with the Soldiers of Odin and it is not a sanctioned event at the city facility.
“It came to our attention at the end of last week,” city spokesman Christopher Webster said, noting the Edmonton police hate crime unit is aware of the public event.
A large police presence monitored the Tuesday night event, which attracted more than a dozen Soldiers of Odin supporters and two dozen or so opponents.
Edmontonians were quick to respond on social media against the group’s public demonstration.
The Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council responded on social media to the planned event advising Muslim residents to stay away from the rally.
“Hate and division have no place in this province or this country, for that matter, and we are appalled by this development,” council president Faisal Khan Suri said in a statement. “People of all backgrounds and religious groups deserve to feel safe, and this kind of event really hinders Muslims in Edmonton from having that safety.”
Coun. Sarah Hamilton said she is hoping to find a constructive way for communities to respond to these types of demonstrations that keep residents safe and also don’t amplify the hateful messages.
“Our response isn’t to say let them be,” Hamilton said. “It’s to say this isn’t my city, this isn’t the city I know and there needs to be some sort of expression that this isn’t who we are and this doesn’t express our larger values.”
With files from Juris Graney