Morning strolls and hangover breakfasts were promptly interrupted this Saturday as right-wing Yellow Vest protesters set up shop on Whyte Avenue, just off 105th Street,as the result of a protest of Rachel Notley’s government. Their choice in locale wasn’t so much about staking a foothold, as it was the result of being outflanked—as over the past few days they’ve been forced by counter-protesters to relocate from the Legislative grounds.
The vests aren’t alone and have recruited the help of several chapters of the Soldiers of Odin—a group that has earned notoriety for publically holding xenophobic and islamaphobiac ideals.
It didn’t take long, standing in the fray of the protest, to notice that the coalition comes off as more of a knee-jerk reaction and rapid recruitment technique than a structured plan. Still, many counter protesters are worried that the unification of these groups is water to the grease fire that is right-wing extremism in the province.
This concern has birthed a mass of counter-protesters who have been meeting the coalition wherever they appear, including Whyte Ave.
“Instead of bolstering their ranks with Edmontonians, they’re calling in more people from places like Calgary, Lethbridge or other small towns. Places where finding their ideals in public spaces seems more likely,” says an anonymous masked counter-protester in regards to the influx of non-local Soldiers of Odin.
Tensions soared as the Yellow Vest-Odin coalition made its stand, waving signs and shouting through megaphones. EPS made its presence thoroughly known, directing foot traffic through the protest and stationing officers on rooftops to ensure that civil unrest didn’t rear its ugly head.
There was also an outpour of rhetoric from the Yellow Vest side of the picket line.
“The constitution of Canada is a fraud. In 1931 Canada became a sovereign nation; the political system in this country has hijacked our rights for over 75 years!” says Jesse James, a protester with the yellow vests.
James continued to talk about how the only salvation Alberta will find will be in its own sovereignty, explaining that self-sufficiency is the only possible escape hatch from the modern political landscape.
When confronted with the xenophobic connotations of the people he was protesting with, James responded, “It doesn’t matter what race you are, the people have been misled … it ain’t about vests or Odin—once we’re united we can build our own country out of prosperity.”
He then added that he couldn’t speak for everyone at the protest, but was steadfast in the notion that the counter-protesters were hired plants by Rachel Notley.
One of these counter-protesters, who asked to go by ‘Anne,’ was able to shed some light on this.
“It’s insane they think we’re these hired goons … by Notley, when in reality we are all members of this community who just want to see these kinds of ideals not have a public platform … the Yellow Vests are here to protest Notley and the hate groups are here to protest Islam, and it’s all glommed into one ideal,” Anne says.
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