The Tower’s Statement on Backlash after the Bernier Demo
From North Shore Counter-Info, Hamilton, Ontario
From The Tower’s Facebook
In the few days since the counter-demo against the Bernier event at Mohawk College, there has been an intense backlash against antifascists. In particular, we see as particularly vile the targeting of an organizer based in Toronto named Alaa, who immigrated to Canada from Syria. We are enraged to see him subjected to racist insults and threats targeting both himself and his family. This backlash has latched on to a video of an elderly person having an uncomfortable few minutes and being slightly delayed. This person experienced no harm, she’s fine, and afterwards went to a bunch of media outlets where she made comments about how her interest in Bernier stems from concerns about the Middle East, specifically Syrians, and how they have different values from ours.
She says it’s not her idea of Canada that she experiences a little difficulty in supporting an openly xenophobic political party. In this she is correct: racism has been a feature of Canada from the beginning. That so much of Hamilton (starting with its media) is focused on an old white person’s moment of discomfort rather than yet another immigrant family being targeted for harassment by the racist far-right should come as no surprise. This is the Canada she is turning to Bernier to defend.
We need to prepare to defend ourselves from this reaction, but it unfortunately isn’t surprising. What is surprising is the number of antifascists who, in the face of a bit of unpopularity and outrage, are distancing themselves from the counter-protest. We don’t need to agree with every tactical decision everyone makes and of course we should always try to do better, but once the dust clears the most lasting harm will be by those who didn’t stay solid – those who threw other antifascists under the bus and stepped away from their political ideals because they were worried about what the internet might say.
Alaa’s family felt pushed to put out a statement apologizing for the events, but the final sentence is telling – they close by asking people to stop sending abusive or threatening messages to their restaurant, their family members, and their staff. That a coerced “apology” like this is being gleefully circulated by the mainstream media should make us all stop and think about the importance of staying strong in our politics and offering unwavering solidarity. Old-lady-gate is a made up scandal and we need to be strong enough in our ideas and organizing to shrug off that kind of hype and focus on what matters.
Many other people are experiencing this kind of harassment right now and we would like to express our solidarity with all of them. There may yet be criminal charges coming down and it’s important to remember the reasons a demo like this matters. We have a responsibility to oppose rising racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic forces – and to resist their normalization through assholes like Bernier. There may be police sniffing around trying to convince people to inform or to help them identify people, and they are certainly following all the terribly unwise social media posts of unblurred video and loose talk. Posting information about criminalized acts on social media can be just as bad as sending it to the cops directly, and airing arguments about tactics exposes faultlines that repression can exploit.
Popularity is a fickle wind, it shouldn’t change a thing about our commitments. Let’s stay solid, and keep each other safe and ready for the next time as there will be many.