Multiple radical and fringe groups from both the far-right and far-left clashed at a Rebel Media event in Calgary on Saturday, Nov. 10. A large contingent of police were present, as a precaution against chaos.

Before the protest started, members of alt-right groups called the Three Percenters and World Coalition Against Islam indicated to the Calgary Journal that they were prepared for possible violence. Violence has broken out at several similar events such as the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year.

Saturday’s protest however, remained peaceful throughout the night, aside from some shouting and a little pushing.

The faceoff took place at the Life Church in southeast Calgary, where Rebel Media hosted The Rebel Live, described on their website as “a day-long conference for true conservatives — not the timid, CBC-approved variety.”

Well known attendees included Maxime Bernier, founder of the new People’s Party of Canada, and Ezra Levant, Rebel Media’s founder.

“What would Jesus do?”: Protester response

Not everyone was happy about far-right-wing media outlet Rebel Media’s presence in Calgary.

A left-wing group called Calgary Anti-Racist Action started a planned protest against the event as the conference was coming to a close. About two dozen protestors attended, some with signs and flags.

Unlike the far-right groups, this group told the Calgary Journal that they were not prepared for violence. 

Calgary Anti-Racist Action is a self-proclaimed “antifa” group. Antifa groups are present worldwide but are not organizationally connected to each other. Each organization is independent and typically the groups share only motives, symbols and the ideology of anti-fascism.

A attendee of the Rebel Live event yells at a protester holding a sign, accusing him of spreading hate outside of the Life Church in southeast Calgary.  Photo by Jagan Jenkins.

Members said they were protesting the event because they believe that Rebel Media uses fear-mongering to radicalize people. They cited Darren Osbourne – a man convicted and sentenced to concurrent life terms for driving a van last into a crowd wearing traditional Islamic dress in London last June – as an example of Rebel Media’s influence.

Opposing the antifa protesters was another small protest group, about a half-dozen local members of the Canadian alt-right activist group World Coalition Against Islam.

During the protest one member of Calgary Anti-Racist Action repeatedly asked event attendees leaving the Rebel Media event, “How was the Nazi rally?”

Other protestors carried signs including one that said, “What would Jesus do?” – an apparent reference to the conference being held in a church.

Arguments broke out between the two sides several times during the protest.

The arguments remained mostly peaceful and some were relatively civilized debates. A few people paired off to argue with each other. One woman was seen crying as she screamed at a protestor. Another woman was seen tapping a protestor on the shoulder repeatedly while shouting at him for “spreading hate.”

Calgary police officers were sent in large numbers to the event to deter violence.

When the protest began, more than 10 police vehicles were surrounding the area. Paramedics were on site as well. Police were using digital cameras and camcorders to record attendees on both sides as well as the media present.

After the event, several “Rebel Live” attendees were seen thanking the police for “keeping them safe.”

The large police contingent nearly equalled the gathered crowds in size. At the peak of the protest there were about 50 people from both sides engaged in the protest. Some of these were conference attendees who engaged in shouting matches with protestors, but were not part of either of the protest groups.

A protester invites a Rebel live attendee to shake his hand during a protest against Rebel Media outside of Life Church on November 10, 2018. Photo by Jagan Jenkins.

In addition, a group of at least five men who identified as Three Percenters, who have been cited by Vice as an “Armed, Anti-Islamic ‘Patriot’ Group,” circled around the protest. They stayed mostly quiet, but were seen paying close attention to the protestors. They claimed to be providing “security” to everyone involved.

Rather than security, however, the group is known to use violent rhetoric against antifa groups.

According to the Vice article, at a previous Calgary rally, some Three Percenters members brought clubs and “shock canes” – the latter intended for use on cattle.

Admitting to the group’s dangerous potential, the group’s Alberta leader, Beau Welling, who is also national vice-president of the organization, told Vice in June 2017 he suspects that the Canadian government considers the group to be “domestic terrorists.”

Others hold similar views of the Three Percenters.

Talking to CBC, Maxime Fiset a consultant working for the Montreal-based Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence, proclaimed  “they are the most dangerous group right now.”

Editor: Nathan Kunz | nkunz@cjournal.ca