Hundreds of people gathered on the steps that traverse from Major’s Hill Park to the Embassy of the United States of America. Their goal was to speak out about racism, both to the south and at home.
The rally was held as much as a reaction to Nazi and White Supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, as it was the White House’s bungled response.
Many speakers, including Adi Roa, of Sanctuary City Ottawa, chastised the Trump administration.
“We’re seeing a very far-right administration take hold in the United States,” Roa said in an interview with the Leafy North. “That is giving tacit, if not explicit, endorsements to some of these white supremacists.”
Roa’s organization is asking the city to be welcoming to all migrants, regardless of immigration status, and provide access to city services without fear of detention or deportation.
“I was here speaking about our intent to build communities that are welcoming. Communities that are accepting. Communities where folks can live without fear,” he said.
“That’s what our message was. That’s what I think you heard from all the speakers today, the message of hope love and acceptance.”
Roa advised caution in the wake of recent events.
“Over the past week, and really the past few years, we’ve been seeing the flames of hatred being fanned. Now it has caught fire.
“People feel that they can walk through the streets with their masks off. Saying proudly that they’re noe-Nazis white supremacists.
“This is not okay.”
“It is important to stand against racism in all forms, but especially in its most virulent form, white supremacy.”
The purpose of the rally was to not only condemn the hatred displayed in the US, but also remind those present that Canada must too deal with extremism.
“I think that these groups are being emboldened,” said Peyton Veitch, a 24-year-old from Winnipeg and Treasurer for the National Federation of Students. “We’re seeing more and more far right groups and individuals coming out of the woodwork.
“I don’t think they ever disappeared but I think that recently they are becoming less and less reticent to organize in public view.”
Veitch believes that rallies like the one that took place in Ottawa, and across North America, because they demonstrate how marginal the beliefs displayed in Charlottesville truly are.
“I think mass mobilizations are fundamental in pushing back and ultimately beating back fascism.”
“Its incredibly important to challenge that wherever its taking place to show that its not acceptable in a democratic society and that there are more of us than them.”
Other attended due to reports of Canadians taking part in the Virginia white supremacist rally.
Tia, a 22-year-old, Canadian immigrant born in Sri Lanka, attended the rally after hearing that some Canadians had attended the far-right events in Virginia.
“I felt really at home here and accepted. To see things like Charlottesville and how people from Canada drove down there, to attend their rally … its just really upsetting to have that kind of hate at home.”
The RCMP also had a prominent presence in both marked and
unmarked vehicles. This included a discreet surveillance van from the RCMP’s Tech Ops division. The more visible contingent of police mainly directed pedestrians around noontime traffic.
The rally ended as the speakers and participants marched around the embassy.