The city of Vancouver says it will not attempt to cancel the two clashing rallies that are set to go ahead downtown this Saturday.
The Worldwide Coalition Against Islam has scheduled an afternoon rally in front of Vancouver City Hall, while Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver has organized a counter-protest for earlier in the day.
Although the city said it does not issue permits for any rallies or protests, City Hall is public property.
“The city recognizes that there are limitations on free speech and that it is an offence under the criminal code to make statements in public which incite hatred against any identifiable group,” it said in a statement.
“It is not possible to know in advance whether any speech that may occur at Saturday’s protests will violate laws which relate to hate speech but the situation will be closely monitored.”
The demonstrations come on the heels of protests in Charlottesville, VA, around whether Confederacy statues should be removed.
Those turned violent and eventually deadly last weekend after a car rammed into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was there to protest against the white nationalist groups.
James Alex Fields of Ohio has been charged in connection to the attack.
Heyer’s mom has since spoken out to say her daughter died “fighting for what she believed.”
In Vancouver, the anti-Muslim rally will be the coalition’s first and will feature founder Joey De, as well as Brad Salzberg from Cultural Action Party.
The latter, which has run candidates in B.C. provincial elections, “represent[s] Canadian citizens who value, and wish to retain, Canada’s traditional identity, heritage and official languages. We stand in direct opposition to globalist forces attempting to undermine and erode our nation’s unique cultural identity.”
On Thursday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson released a statement condemning the rally.
“People have a right to demonstrate but hatred and racism have no place in this city,” he said. “I expect people to confront that and make sure there’s a peaceful and direct pushback on racism and hatred.”
— Van Mayor's Office (@VanMayorsOffice) August 17, 2017
The Soldiers of Odin are also scheduled to attend the anti-Muslin rally. The group shared the Facebook event to its online followers with the caption, “Soldiers of Odin will be in full support. Let’s show these Libertarts (sic) who is dumb and who is not dumb.”
Said a post on Facebook for the Stand Up Ro Racism event: “We, the anti-racist majority, want to be there in a peaceful counter protest to say no to Islamophobia and no to racism.”
Vancouver police have said they have a plan in place to patrol the events, but wouldn’t give any details.
When asked how officers would determine when free speech crosses the line to hate speech, Sgt. Jason Robillard said the call would “have to be made at the time.”
– with files from The Canadian Press