I grabbed the man by the back of his leather vest, placing my body between his and the mob that had begun to circle him.
On the back of his vest read the words “Northern Guard”. There was a look of surprise written across his eyes as he saw who helped him to his feet.
I looked back at him, hoping he had enough sense to run or at least move. As the Guard Member finally rejoined his brothers, he looked back at me he said, “Your side started this.” I told him “You’re welcome.” I wondered if I was going to make it home that day, between the police and the neo-Nazi groups the odds looked slim. I dusted myself off, checked both of my cameras and continued taking photos.
I first heard of the Unite the Right rally when I went to take some photos at the Unity Rally in Queen’s Park. This rally was in reaction to the belief that Nationalist groups had received permits to protest at U of T. There were murmurs that there would be a protest at Nathan Philips Square and we were all invited to attend and demonstrate our unity. I decided to attend, figuring things couldn’t be so bad.
The need for violence pulled at those in attendance, both groups looking to exact revenge on their oppressors. On one side was a who’s who of the Canadian alt-right, the Soldiers of Odin, Proud Boys and the Northern Guard. The tipping point occurred when members of Northern Guard began to walk through the crowds, parting the way between both groups. Someone threw a punch. Then a kick. One of the guard members fell.
“Your side started this”
A few minutes after that exchange, the police had finally managed to get things under control. Both groups continued yelling at each other, neither willing to listen. Looking around I saw Arabs, Asians, South Asians and Indigenous peoples and this was the group that was opposing Islam. Opposing them were a collective of people from all walks of life, some comprised of a sampling of faces from the Unity Rally. Some just happened to walk in off the street, some just wanted to take selfies.
In the end, I didn’t learn anything new. I left a little disheartened, wondering what was going to happen to us all next.