Soldiers of Odin Vancouver Island president, who refused to provide his name, meets with Jamison McGrath, a supporter of Discontent City, on Aug. 5 on Front Street during a rally that featured supporters from both sides. Nicholas Pescod/News Bulletin)

Soldiers of Odin confront supporters of B.C. tent city

No violence during heated and tense meeting between the two sides in Nanaimo

A face-to-face meeting between members of the Soldiers of Odin and Discontent City supporters was heated and full of discontent, but remained non-violent in the end.

The Soldiers of Odin Vancouver Island had announced last week that they, along with Action Against Discontent City, a group of citizens upset at the tent city’s existence, planned to visit Discontent City to protest the illegally formed camp. That announcement resulted in a planned counter-rally by supporters of Discontent City, who pledged to protect the camp.

On Sunday afternoon, Soldiers of Odin, wearing most black, and members of AADC made good on their word and marched to the front of Discontent City, where they were greeted by at least 150 tent supporters, the Nanaimo RCMP and a much smaller contingent of people opposed to the camp’s existence.

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The Soldiers of Odin was founded in Finland by Mika Ranta, an admitted neo-Nazi, to patrol the Finnish streets in order to “protect” citizens from asylum seekers, according to an article by the Agence France-Presse. However, the Vancouver Island chapter’s president has denied accusations of neo-Nazism and racism.

It’s those ties and links that attracted a number of people to come and support members of Discontent City, including Phoebe Ramsay, who handed out literature about the Soldiers of Odin. Ramsay said as soon as she found out about the SOO coming to Nanaimo, she decided to make the drive up from Victoria to protest against them and inform people about them.

“In Canada, although the Soldiers of Odin are trying to put forward a front that they are a community safety and service organization … there are still clear links of this organization to white supremacy and they are also an extremely anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, Islamophobic hate group,” Ramsay said.

Prior to the Soldiers of Odin arriving, Discontent City supporters, which included members of various First Nations, chanted, cheered, sang songs and gave speeches.

Organizers of Discontent City called for their supporters to make their voices heard, but not to engage with the Soldiers of Odin or cause any violence.

“We don’t discuss with them, we don’t engage with them. If they yell at us ignore it because our message is stronger than their individual taunting … and trolling,” Ivan Drury, a tent city activist, told a fired-up crowd of Discontent City supporters.

Shortly before Soldiers of Odin arrived, Discontent City supporters marched out onto Front Street and blocked traffic, which caused a number of people to voice their displeasure.

“I paid taxes, I paid for this road get off, come on,” screamed one woman, who later blocked traffic herself in protest.

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Shawn Mawer, who had an extremely vocal confrontation with a Discontent City supporter, told the News Bulletin he is tired of all the problems caused by the tent city. He said it made him “mad” to see how many people showed up to support Discontent City.

“It makes me mad because they don’t understand what is truly going on,” he said. “All these people have really just seen it from these Facebook posts and the media, whereas if you actually spend time down here, you’ll see what really goes on,” he said. “It pisses me off to see how many people will support what they don’t know.”

When SOOVI arrived, around 2 p.m., the atmosphere became charged with supporters from both sides immediately coming toward each other, which led to the RCMP getting between the two sides. There were also loud chants from both sides with people calling Discontent City occupants a bunch “freeloaders” and “scumbags” while others called the marchers a bunch of “racist pigs.”

The Soldiers of Odin Vancouver Island president, who, once again, refused to give his name, said his group came to Discontent City to force politicians to stop sitting around and take action to remove the camp.

Although there was plenty of profanity and hostility between the two sides, who were merely an arm’s length away from each other due to the RCMP, there were a few brief moments where some members on both sides engaged in a civil manner and listened to one another. There were even a few hugs between the two parties.

After about an hour of chants from either side, the marchers called it a day and left Front Street, which drew loud cheers from supporters of Discontent City and a speech from Drury, who told the crowd that at their actions represented a “victory” for the camp.

It’s unclear whether the Soldiers of Odin will return to Discontent City, but their president said it is a possibility.

“I’ll come back next weekend, I’ll come back every weekend,” he said.


nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

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