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Editorial: Protest peacefully

Published on August 22, 2017

Some are more than willing to bring violence into the equation. And that’s, quite simply, the wrong way to go.

The numbers tell the tale.

In Boston, a few dozen people attended a far-right rally on the Boston Common. The police estimate that 40,000 counter-protesters showed up to oppose the rally.

In Vancouver, a handful of far-right anti-immigration demonstrators were easily outnumbered by more than 4,000 counter-protesters — the anti-immigration rally was stopped in its tracks.

In Quebec City, 200 right wing nationalist marchers ended up pinned in a parking garage for hours by scores of counter-protesters.

The message?

Far more people are opposed to the message of the very far right than are willing to show up to defend those positions.

The message is that there are many ways to fight racists, but that violence is one of the least effective ways to do it.

But something else came out of the weekend rallies as well: in Boston and Quebec City, at least some of the counter-protesters clashed with police, showing that they are more than willing to bring violence into the equation. And that’s, quite simply, the wrong way to go.

Perhaps the simplest point to make is that two wrongs don’t make a right. The far right has shown it is willing to bring violence and weapons to protests. Counter-protesters shouldn’t feel that gives them a licence to reply in kind. Because, more than anything else, it simply gives people the right to say the counter-protesters are no better than the neo-Nazis they are protesting about.

Shout them down if you like. Peacefully disrupt neo-Nazi rallies, if you can. Demonstrate the strength in numbers that shows what a sad and small portion of the population it actually is that seems to need to blame its own failings and shortcomings on people with different faiths, religions or ethnic upbringings.

Heck, you can even do something that might be more effective: make fun of the self-righteous right.

Neo-Nazis in Wunsiedel, Germany, have marched to the former site of the grave of one of Hitler’s deputies, Rudolph Hess. Hess’s headstone was removed, his grave as well, but the marchers kept coming.

In 2014, the town turned the march into an “involuntary walkathon,” raising money for every metre the neo-Nazis marched through the town and then donating the funds to a group that helps people leave far-right groups.

The marching neo-Nazis are even showered with rainbow confetti at the end of the march.

The message is that there are many ways to fight racists, but that violence is one of the least effective ways to do it. Research has actually shown that more supporters are drawn to non-violent protest than to clashes. Large numbers of counter-protesters who physically clash with neo-Nazi protesters might actually push others towards the right wing. Don’t make martyrs, make reasonable, reasoned arguments.

Civil resistance works when it has non-violence at its core.

One thing is abundantly clear: when things descend into violence, everyone loses.