The Quebec chapter of PEGIDA, a German, right-wing, anti-Islamic group, had a protest planned for 4 p.m. in Montreal’s predominantly Muslim “Little Maghreb” neighbourhood. However, no members of the group were to be found. Instead, hundreds of anti-PEGIDA protesters proclaimed their support for immigrants, Muslim or otherwise.
Around an hour after the protest was set to start, the police announced that PEGIDA’s protest had been cancelled. The dozens of riot police that hemmed the crowd maintained stoic positions but didn’t interact with the cheerful and triumphant crowd.
The counter-protest gathered around a group of women, many wearing the hijab, with a banner bearing the words, “Against Islamophobia.” In celebration they walked to the nearest metro, led by a truck bearing a large stereo, which blasted hip-hop songs with socially progressive lyrics.
We ran into Roger on the bus on our way over. He isn’t an official member of PEGIDA, but he was the only person we met who had come to support the “anti-Islamization” rally. He told us he found the immigrants in Little Maghreb “arrogant.” We asked him why.
“It’s their attitude,” he said, referencing the woman who brought a judge to court for not hearing her while she wearing a hijab.
“Me, if I went to her country, I wouldn’t start asking for Christian rights in a Muslim world. One has to respect how the country functions,” he said, gesticulating emphatically.
Of women wearing veils that fully cover their faces, he said, “It’s a universe which isn’t ours. They impose it on us like that. Me, I don’t need to see things which disturb me like that.”
“I came because I heard there would be people supporting awful things, and I wanted to fight back in a way.”
“I feel like there shouldn’t be any organized demonstration of violence and racism.”
“I hope that people will hear that that was planned and that by this action, it was prevented.”