Soldiers of Odin disrupt anti-racism rally in Vancouver
“Tempers flared almost immediately” when the group, which experts say has ties to white supremacists, showed up at the event
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Vancouver police say several men who are members of the anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin were arrested on Sunday, March 26 after violence broke out at an International Day Against Racism rally.
Imtiaz Popat, one of the organizers of the rally, said rally participants began noticing that Soldiers of Odin members were following the march as people marched down Hastings Street.
Around 200 rally participants marched from Thornton Park to Victory Square in downtown Vancouver and were making speeches at around 1:50 p.m., according to police and organizers.
When Soldiers of Odin members arrived at Victory Square as speeches began, “tempers flared almost immediately,” wrote Const. Jason Doucette, media liaison with the Vancouver Police Department.
Verbal arguments between rally participants and Soldiers of Odin quickly escalated to pushing and shoving, Doucette said. Popat said that some of the Soldiers of Odin members were also picking up chairs at that point in the altercation.
Three of the men were arrested for breach of the peace and released shortly after the rally ended, Doucette said.
Popat said he was frustrated the men were released so quickly. Popat said that in the past, police have separated opposing groups at rallies before the situation escalates to a physical altercation.
“They were shouting down people, blocking people, being very aggressive. And they had this big Canadian flag, which they were waving around like a weapon,” Popat alleged.
“Just before (MP) Jenny Kwan was to speak they threw a purple smoke bomb.”
Police said they had not found any smoke bombs or any other weapons.
Soldiers of Odin has been present in Vancouver since September 2016, when members of the group began patrolling areas like the Downtown Eastside. While the group says it is concerned with community safety and activities like cleaning up used needles, experts say the group has ties to an international group co-founded by a Finnish white supremacist convicted of racially motivated assaults.
In an interview for a Sept. 26, 2016 story on the Vancouver chapter, Soldiers of Odin member Bill Daniels was asked whether the group is specifically anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant.
“That's how it started but it's gotten past that,” Daniels replied. “It’s become more of a charity helping people.
With files from David P. Ball