Video footage is circulating this week of a violent clash between self-identifying members of Canada's far-right political contingent and those who oppose their ideologies during Pride celebrations in Toronto.
The brawl, captured on camera from multiple angles, broke out inside Toronto's Eaton Centre during the annual Dyke March on Saturday afternoon.
A widely-shared clip from an 18-minute-long YouTube video published on Sunday shows roughly a dozen people punching, kicking and grabbing each other outside Uniqlo as security guards attempt to intervene.
A vicious brawl broke out between members of far-right political groups and counter-protesters at the Eaton Centre during Pride celebrations in #Toronto this weekend.— blogTO (@blogTO) June 26, 2019
Several of those fighting are dressed in makeshift combat gear that includes skateboard helmets, tactical vests, gloves and t-shirts bearing slogans such as "Canada Nationalist Party" and "Read the Bible, Repent & Be Born Again."
One person can be seen waving a red Communist Party of the Soviet Union flag.
Chaotic as the scene appeared, the fight wasn't spontaneous.
Police and witnesses say that tensions started rising well before punches were thrown inside the mall after a rally was held by PEGIDA Canada — a group that bills itself as an organization "for Canadians who wish to preserve their culture."
Big ol contingent of cops just showed up. pic.twitter.com/iPqDIvqM1j— Mack Lamoureux (@MackLamoureux) June 22, 2019
The rally, which took place outside a courthouse at 361 University Avenue during the Dyke March, is also said to have been attended by members of far-right groups such as the Soldiers of Odin, the Canadian Nationalist Party and Yellow Vests Canada.
Police managed to keep rally attendees separate from counter-protesters, who showed up in defiance of the gathering, but only during the demonstration itself.
After the rally, members of the far right groups marched toward the mall while counter-protesters (referred to by the rally attendees as "antifa") followed.
No sympathy for the fash.— Yellow Vests Canada Exposed (@VestsCanada) June 23, 2019
Why? Right here.
Ron Banerjee (Rise Canada): “Let’s have a big fight right in Eaton Centre.”
Rick Boswick: “Yeah.” #cdnpoli #cdnmedia #Toronto #onpoli pic.twitter.com/bFKC8U8yI2
One self-identified yellow-vester filmed much of what happened and published it to YouTube the next day in a video called "Big fight Eaton Centre Toronto. Police arrest antifa. Terror on the Streets."
In another video shot by a member of the rally group, someone can be heard saying "let's have a big fight right inside the Eaton Centre."
Yet another clip shows a well-known member of Canada's far-right community encouraging counter-protesters to continue following them.
"Do you want us to go to Church Street, buddy?" says a man identified by critics as anti-Muslim instigator Ron Banerjee in that video. "Keep following us. We'll do exactly what you don't want us to do."
Toronto Police say that they are aware of the video footage, and of the altercations between these opposing groups on Saturday.
Pride Toronto's executive director, Olivia Nuamah, told CBC News on Tuesday night that Pride had been warned ahead of potential disruptions from groups such as PEGIDA during this weekend's events.
Nuamah commended police for keeping everyone safe, but cautioned that the current political and social climate emboldening far-right activist groups is "incredibly worrying."
"It's growing, it's menacing, it's making us feel unsafe," she said. "Something needs to be done about it."
by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO