Four anti-fascists and five neo-Nazis were arrested by police during anti-Nazi protests in Toronto on Sunday 12 September. For over 18 months, Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi icon, Ernst Zundel, has been in jail in Toronto awaiting deportation to Germany for hate crimes in that country. Zundel, who had lived in the United States for several years, was deported to Canada in early 2003, when he violated US immigration law. Though formerly a long-time resident of Canada, Zundel lost his residency status when he left the country, several years ago. He is now facing deportation.
On at least half a dozen occasions over the past 18 months neo-Nazi groups have been attending rallies outside of the Metro West Detention Centre where Zundel is held. These rallies organised by "suit and tie Nazi" Paul Fromm, have been growing in number and have been, until recently, held without opposition.
In July, this year, Socialist Alternative (CWI supporters in Canada), an independent left group called Young Left, and Anti-Racist Action organised the first counter-demonstration, with only four days notice to oppose the Nazis. The action was attended by 24 anti-racists who rented a bus and arrived at the site of the rally in suburban Toronto. Though police were present, they initially waited down the road for almost twenty minutes while the anti-racists yelled anti-Nazi slogans and stood their ground, despite various assaults by the fascists. These attacks resulted in one anti-Nazi youth receiving a black eye when he was hit with a flagpole and another protester, a young Native woman, was grabbed by the throat by fascist thugs. Despite these attacks the anti-fascists refused to back down and eventually police intervened to separate the two sides. After about an hour the Nazis, with their pride wounded, left in disarray.
Almost two months later, with only one days "public" notice, the Nazis called another rally and attempted to avoid a counter-demonstration by moving the time of their action ahead one hour. Despite these attempts at minimising opposition a larger number of anti-racists arrived to demonstrate their opposition to Nazis organising openly in Toronto. This time the police kept both sides 50 feet apart and on opposite sides of the road in front of the jail. Nazi cars were searched and four Nazis from London, Ontario, were arrested on weapons charges after throwing knives and a bow and arrow were found in their possession.
Following the rally the Nazis retreated to ‘Jack Astor’s restaurant’. Anti-racists followed and, on arriving, went into the establishment and demanded that the Nazis be kicked out. While management was hostile to the demands several staff from the kitchen came out to ask what was going on and, on learning there were Nazis in the restaurant, said that they would refuse to serve them.
Grandson of Holocaust survivor arrested
Anti-racists left the restaurant after being asked to leave but began to picket in front of the entrance demanding that the Nazis be expelled. A more senior manager came out and offered a "deal" whereby he would serve the Nazis free beers for an hour and then ask them to leave and then serve the anti-racists free beer for an hour. After refusing this offer police were called.
The protest remained non-violent until the arrival of Toronto police who preceded to pepper-spray several protesters without any warning. The Nazis used this situation to physically attack at least one of the anti-racists. Four anti-racists were arrested and charged with "mischief" and "being a public nuisance". One anti-racist was charged with "carrying a weapon" - a red flag on a flagpole - and another was accused of having a weapon for carrying an anti-racist banner. Ultimately both the anti-racists and neo-Nazis were ordered to leave.
One of the arrested anti-racists is the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. He told the press, "We’re not going to tolerate their [the neo-Nazi] presence in our community."
"The police don’t seem to care, the police were protecting them so we have to do something. We’re not going to sit back and watch Nazis organize in our neighbourhood."
The action has succeeded in raising awareness among the public about the growing racist movement in Ontario and particularly in London, Ontario, where several of the arrested neo-Nazis are from. A report carried by the London Free Press warned that the arrests indicate there could be a "second wave" of Nazis organising in the area.