Originally published in the People’s Voice January 2013
VICTORIA BC – Anti-racist organizers report they have won several skirmishes with a "conspiracy cult" linked to US patriot and militia organizations. Anti-Racist Action says members of a group called We Are Change Victoria (WAC) began sparring with social justice activists and the People's Assembly (Occupy Victoria) over a year ago.
WAC is part of a North American network loosely connected to US radio host Alex Jones, the Libertarian Party, the militia movement and patriot groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group promotes conspiracy theories about 9/11, chemtrails, gun control, human rights law, climate-change denial, and Holocaust denial.
In Victoria, WAC members joined the Occupy movement soon after it began, but they split over angry disagreements about the camp's stance on social justice and indigenous rights. Later, WAC members disrupted meetings, denounced the movement, and launched an online harassment campaign targeting women and trans activists, and anyone they considered an organizer.
A year later, in October 2012, WAC “activist” Josh Steffler announced that Doug Christie, Canada's best-known white supremacist, would address their rally on the BC Legislature lawn. Anti-Racist Action called for a counter-protest and blew the whistle on the event. Ultimately, Christie didn't show and some of the other speakers stayed away as well. Fewer than a dozen people attended the rally.
It was not a proud day for WAC. As volunteers set up the sound system for the speakers, three angry "free speech advocates" crossed the Legislature lawn to confront the counter-protestors picketing on the sidewalk 150 meters away. The shouting match that ensued drew the attention of nearby police officers. The WACkos demanded the arrest of the counter-protestors, but instead the cops sent the wingnuts scurrying back to the stage with their tails between their legs. The counter-protestors spent the rest of the afternoon handing flyers to passers-by and explaining why they were protesting WAC's racism and sexism.
A month later, ARA confronted WAC at its hangout, a downtown diner where the group held well-advertised but poorly-attended weekly meetings. ARA called for a meetup at the same diner and dozens responded. They filled every table and the wingnuts were turfed out before they could get in the door.
Since then, WAC no longer advertises its events or meeting locations. Its only response to the controversy is a Youtube video. Speaking for the group, Steffler, a failed Esquimalt city council candidate, blames the conflict on "Bolsheviks" who are the "real racists."
More recently, members of WAC were harassing a Victoria environmental activist in an effort to suppress photos of the October confrontation and take down her websites. Now one WACko is embroiled in an ugly Supreme Court battle that he is bound to lose.
Anti-Racist Action has four points of unity:
1. We go where they go. Whenever fascists are organizing or active in public, we're there. We don't believe in ignoring them or staying away from them. Never let the Nazis have the street!
2. We don't rely on the cops or courts to do our work for us. This doesn't mean we never go to court, but the cops uphold white supremacy and the status quo. They attack us and everyone who resists oppression. We must rely on ourselves to protect ourselves and stop the fascists.
3. Non-sectarian defence of other anti-fascists. In ARA, we have a lot of different groups and individuals. We don't agree about everything and we have a right to differ openly. But in this movement an attack on one is an attack on us all. We stand behind each other.
4. We support abortion rights and reproductive freedom. ARA intends to do the hard work necessary to build a broad, strong movement against racism, sexism, anti-immigrant, anti-indigenous sovereignty, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, discrimination against the disabled, the oldest, the youngest, and the most oppressed people. We want a classless, free society. We intend to win!
Anti-Racist Action Victoria's Facebook page.