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Friday, February 21, 2020

Far-Right Groups Engaging in Vigilantism

UPDATE: We have received a reportback from an individual who was present at the Edmonton blockade. Scroll to the bottom to read it. 

The RCMP raids of Wet'suwet'en territory set off a series of rail blockades in defense of the First Nations' community. Some of the blockades have been in place for over two weeks, and regardless of how illegal the RCMP actions are far-right groups have begun to show impatience with the length of the blockades.

Far-right groups such as the Yellow Vests, United We Roll, and WEXIT are beginning to turn towards a form of vigilantism justice in retaliation. This is disturbing since members of all three groups have repeatedly discussed running protestors over with vehicles.

On Wednesday a group of vigilantes took down some materials being used for a blockade near Edmonton to much fanfare among far-right groups. United We Roll were present even though they were asked by police to not attend. Afterwards they stuck around for a photo-op, holding up a train. 
We identified one of the vigilantes as being a member of WEXIT, and upon the notoriety for his involvement in taking the blockades down he immediately set up a GoFundMe campaign. Typical behaviour for right-wing grifters.


The support for this by United We Roll and the Yellow Vests is very hypocritical, considering they modeled themselves after the French movement which has blocked roads and fuel depots.

After the blockade was taken down, Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Peter MacKay tweeted his support for the far-right vigilantes, but quickly deleted it after receiving criticism.


Many on the right are spreading false claims about the First Nation's land defenders, the first of which is that the protestors are being paid. There is absolutely no evidence that is happening, even the Post Millennial had to admit as much in their article titled: Indigenous chief says some anti-pipeline protestors are getting paid.


The next unsubstantiated claim is that protestors are derailing trains. This is based on a CTV report about a derailment in Lanaudiere, QC. CTV cited an anonymous unsubstantiated report that "something was set on the tracks in order to derail the train". CN have not confirmed whether that happened and no evidence has been provided.

Ezra Levant of The Rebel Media tweeted his support by offering to pay the legal fees for anyone arrested taking down the barricades, something which has not gone unnoticed by the far-right.


Cory Morgan of Calgary created a group called "Citizens For Rule of Law", and they appear to be interested in vigilante justice.

Some of Cory Morgan's Facebook 'likes'
More concerning is that an as of yet unidentified person created multiple social media profiles named after Colorado Synagogue shooter Richard Holzer and attempted to rally people to the rail blockade in the Tyendinaga Mohawk territory in Ontario. Whomever created the account also referenced the Proud Boys. At this time, much of his social media and the Facebook event have been shut down.


'Richard Holzer' Facebook account before it was removed
The 'Richard Holzer' account cited Ezra's tweet
A Facebook group called Belleville protestor removal team popped up, started by Greg Crabb. 


 

According to Inquinte.ca, Crabb is quoted as saying,
I’m gonna be going sometime today to check out the area for the best plan of attack.
We’re going to keep it simple and unexpected to the protesters.
Pat King and other yellow vests are planning to confront the blockades on Saturday at noon. These people are very disorganized so it's hard to say what will take place.



The Threepers are now also rallying their supporters to begin infiltration of blockades as well as railway patrols.
We shall continue to monitor far-right social media for any other potential vigilante actions and threats.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article indicated that the Edmonton blockade was removed by agitators. Media reports and video showed barrels and wooden pallets being removed by agitators, however the bulk of the blockade was made up of community tents (food, meeting) and social spaces. These community and social spaces were removed by the blockade and their supporters.

UPDATE: We've graciously received a report-back from our friend Trevor Riel, who has provided additional context and first-hand information/experience (emphasis ours):

On Wednesday February 19th, in the early hours of the morning, approximately 30 indigenous youth and settler accomplices barricaded the Edson Sublet CN rail line on the outskirts of Edmonton. This line serves as a vital artery for train traffic across the Rockies. The objective was to extend the rail blockades started on the West Coast and Tyendinaga to the Prairies and was successful in shutting down rail traffic for more than 12h, disrupting rail transport for 7 days. It also faced opposition and a dangerously inept police response, which this will focus on. 
Petrofascist reaction had been an anticipated response to the blockade. Alberta has a worrying problem with far right reactionary violence, stoked by public figures, the UCP government, and numerous grifters who have graced the posts of this blog already. While preparation is half the battle, there are substantial challenges to enforcing a non-violent response to violence. In order to protect supporters both from legal consequences and an increasingly dangerous situation, the call was made to disperse around 2pm, with the camp having been fully removed before 3pm. 
For the first several hours, the camp was serene and we watched the sunrise. Our only interaction with police occurred before dawn, when an officer from CN police approached two of our police liaisons, and asked for their names. They didn’t offer them, the officer returned to his car, and this was the last interaction we would have with police of any jurisdiction until being informed of the affidavit at approximately 2pm. 
We allowed traffic to pass along Range Road 216, as the blockade was focused on rail infrastructure, not local businesses and residents. Being right beside a road, we had taken precautions to protect ourselves from cars driving in to the camp, including multiple barrels filled with concrete and a parked car of our own blocking both the tracks and the entrance to the camp from the road. Passing cars and trucks ranged from the expected ‘get a job’ to raucous support, with our first run in with a doofus happening well into the morning. Sporting a mullet, an array of bumper stickers from grifting far right figures and two stars and bars, we had good ol’ boy Cody Frederickson from EcoRite780 roll down his window and yell at us. He only left his truck to yell at a police officer, then screamed incoherently into a television camera that was not turned on. 
As news spread and people started getting lunch breaks, reaction intensified. We had one particular chud, unknown to organisers at the time but now identified as Guy Simpson, storm into the camp and attempt to tear down the pallet wall on the rail tracks. He was blocked by a crowd of people from approaching the barrier and there was a long period of negotiating him out of the camp during which he claimed to be indigenous and also claimed to have personally lost 500k$ because of the rail blockades. He seemed to know little to nothing about Wet’suwet’en and was mainly angry about the blockade itself, and has subsequently attempted to join the ranks of reactionary grifters with a GoFundMe. 
After talking him down he left the camp, threatening to return with a posse. At this point, we started erecting more barriers on the road, anticipating further disruption. Becky and Karen also showed up, before a MAGA hat wearing stooge and his affable friend joined the party of whiny white people concerned about our safety. 
During the lunch hour, numbers swelled both in our camp and in the small gaggle of reactionary ghouls and numbnuts. Keeping people safe is always one of our top priorities, and this is very challenging to do when attempting a permanent blockade. 
While none of the barricade itself is necessary, defending the boundaries of the camp was a necessary step in maintaining the safety of everyone in it. Having scrums over pallets and barrels is both absurd and also a necessity, with the fear that small victories would embolden reactionaries to continue pushing. The original camp had spanned both sides of the track with barrels and signs, but at this point, the West side of the camp was more or less wrapped up. Despite being very tense, this period went mostly without incident, though reactionaries did shove several people, bowled over media and camera equipment, and were constantly threatening us with greater violence. Many also regurgitated the same stochastic terrorism talking points we see from public figures and government. 
As the situation escalated, the camp moved from eating, prayer, and ceremony with a minimal presence defending the perimeter of the camp to forming a human wall at the edge of the camp. While this was framed as part of our receiving the affidavit it had actually been coordinated to protect the camp from incursion and disruption by the reactionary mob that had now brought out a flatbed. The wall sang and came together, and was successful in deterring any further action from reactionaries. Upon our being served notice of an impending injunction, the mob started jeering and celebrating police violence that would never arrive. 
The cleanup period was complicated. We had received a great deal of material from supporters who had been unable to stay, leaving us with a large amount of stuff we didn’t have the vehicles to remove immediately. Despite this, the entirety of our camp was dismantled in an orderly fashion, packed up, and kept by supporters. The lower priority things that remained were largely scrap wood and barrels that had been part of the barricade. Had we been free to do so, our plan was to simply drag this off the tracks and remove it in a few trips. However, no one felt that it was wise to try and defend scrap wood from an angry mob with a dwindling number of supporters. As a result, much of it was carried off by the counter-protesters and especially the pallet wall, a low priority for us to remove, was targeted. This was misrepresented by them as a victory over the blockade, but in reality, they were just picking up garbage faster than we could. On this note, I think we should be careful about how we describe a blockade. The blockade was not the pallet wall or any other physical piece of disruption, those are just symbols and tools. The blockade was the people on the tracks, and we were not removed by the vigilantes, we voluntarily walked off. 
It was also as the camp was being cleared out that the reactionary mob changed from a few local dickheads to more well known figures, with Les Michaelson and Peter Downing arriving to harass media and the few remaining blockaders then further delaying the trains by posing for a selfie on the tracks. 
During all of this process, police were entirely absent, providing ample evidence for ACAB. Despite the police having a supposed duty to protect all citizens, even those breaking the law, police did nothing to deescalate the situation. In addition to being a moral failing, this should also be viewed as an operational failure. Our camp was disciplined and organised, had things descended into violence we would have been much less able to extricate ourselves, lengthening the blockade. Going forward, police giving carte blanche to reactionaries will result in a greater threat of violence, and everyone should condemn EPS and CN for their utter failure to uphold, wait for it, the rule of law. Our government and its agents were signaling in no uncertain terms that they are more than willing to look the other way when it comes to white supremacist violence against indigenous people. The lack of violence was entirely the result of the incredible deescalation work of our camp, and the number of supporters that came out and joined us in resisting the threat of violence as a community. 
I’ve alluded already to a few trends we noticed. First, that reactionary violence to protests does not stem from a particular affinity or knowledge for what is happening in Wet’suwet’en. It stems from a more basic hatred of people disrupting the status quo, and the people who are disrupting it. There is little room or purpose for discourse or debate with these people, and our focus has to be deescalation. Second, that reactionaries are poorly organised on the ground, taking all day to organise any response by leaders in their community, but radicalise a wide ranging online base and can depend on activated angry white men to act on their own initiative. This makes them more dangerous for planning actions outside of familiar spaces because it is hard to gauge how committed to violence these activated angry white men are and how seriously to assess their threats. It also highlights the profound threat posed by declarations like Peter Mackay’s that normalise and encourage white supremacist violence. Third, that this will get worse without either a firm resistance from a much broader segment of the population, or our governments taking more responsibility to clamp down on white supremacist extremism. In other words, organise your communities.

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