Dozens of people gathered on Churchill Square in Downtown Edmonton Saturday, taking part as participants in two groups that were hosting separate rallies over Motion 103. According to the Text of the Motion on the Parliament of Canada website, the motion aims to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”
The Motion was created by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid last year, and is currently still in the debate stage.
The Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens started their rally when they organized a protest outside the City Hall against the federal Liberal government and Motion 103.
“They (the Liberal government) are not really looking out for us Canadians anymore,” said the Coalition organizer, Dion Park. “It’s alright to criticize every other ideology and religion, except for Islam—Is that what they’re trying to pass through?”
After hearing about the Coalition’s rally, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Edmonton and Area Chapter organized and hosted their own counter-rally and referred to it as “Drown out Hateful Noise” on Churchill Square, in support of the Motion.
“This event is about a group of concerned citizens who believes that freedom of speech is not freedom to hate, and we will not tolerate discrimination and bigotry in our city,” said Radwuan Mohamed, one of the BLM event’s media representatives. “Incidents like these will just lead to more hate.”
A line of red chairs and tables between the two groups was used a divider to separate them into their own areas.
On the one side, participants for the BLM counter-rally banged their pots and pans, sang, read poems, and danced with Edmonton elder Taz Bouchier, who was in attendance to voice her support for their cause and participate in their activities.
On the other side, participants for the Coalition gathered together as they waved their signs and Canadian flags, while they sang the Canadian national anthem, and chanted, “Hey, ho, ho, Justin Trudeau got to go.”
There were moments of peaceful confrontation between a few of the members from the opposing sides as some them silently stood across from each other, holding up their flags and signs, while others had open discussions.
However, tensions started to slowly mount between the two groups after a Coalition supporter pulled down a “No border, No Binaries” banner brought by BLM Edmonton supporters from a railing and threw it into the air. He was later arrested and escorted off the square.
The scene then became tense as a few members from both sides started to move closer to their opponents’ rallies.
A buffer zone was later formed at the centre of the square between the two groups, separate from the original chairs and tables, and members from the opposing rallies were blocked from crossing it.
As the tension continued to build up, the organizers of the counter-rally decided to finish their event and left the area.
Although the rallies ended without any real conflict, given that the motion is still being debated, there’s a good chance this is not the last word either group will have to say on the matter.
Cover photo supplied.