It was a peaceful gathering for most of the day. The counter rally ‘Love Lives Here’ congregated at Emmanuel United Church, across the street from the park where a rally planned by Kevin Goudreau, a known white supremacist, was expected to be held.
There was art making, music and dancing on the lawn of the church and kids played all around.
There were speeches on the lawn, and several Indigenous Elders took to the tiny stage to share their remarks. Kemi Akapo also spoke about her experiences as a black woman in Peterborough and how the racism she experiences on a regular basis motivated her to help organize the counter-rally.
Many people I spoke with expressed how important it was for them to be there that day, for many that meant being there with their children. There were many other events going on in Peterborough on September 30th — Head of the Trent, Orange T-Shirt Day, and the Ride For Refuge to name a few — and in spite of that, hundreds of people showed their support for the counter rally.
On the other hand, very few people showed up for Goudreau’s rally, and if they did, they didn’t identify themselves loudly, except for one man. A man dressed in camo clothes and a T-shirt with Nazi symbols and carry a sign showed up at Confederation Square.
Anti-fascist organizers exchanged blows with him and police intervened and arrested protesters, while the man in the t-shirt was able to leave down George Street. Protesters surrounded the cop car as they tried to leave with the arrested person. Police revved their engines into protesters and tried to leave the scene. Protesters chanted, “Let them go,” and “Fighting fascists is not a crime.” Several minutes later, police released the woman who had been arrested, and the protesters went back to their peaceful gathering.
I spoke with the police after the rally, they indicated they would be identifying and arresting anti-fascist protesters. As of October 13th, police have laid charges against two people. And they have released photos of others asking for the public’s assistance in identifying protesters.
90% of the day was a peaceful rally. But there was a unique tension in the air that I’ve never felt before in Peterborough. People were on guard and waiting for action. It ultimately culminated in that altercation around 4:30 p.m.
Listen to the documentary “Voices from Confederation Square, Sept. 30” produced by Ayesha Barmania in the media player at the top of the page.