Aug 2, 2018

Far-right group and anti-fascists embroiled in Montreal 'turf war'

Members of Montréal Antifasciste roamed Ontario St. Sunday removing stickers from the extreme right-wing group Atalante Québec and replacing them with their own.
A man and woman were attacked outside a bar Saturday while trying to remove stickers from the fascist group Atalante Québec.

July 31, 2018

A man and woman were attacked outside a Montreal bar late Saturday while trying to remove fascist propaganda from a street sign, witnesses say.

Jonathan Turcotte Summers said he was walking along Ontario St. that night when he saw a young couple who appeared to be shaken up.

“They seemed very agitated,” Turcotte Summers said. “They just happened to see a sticker from a neo-fascist group and when they went to take it down, they were attacked.

“It was three men, two women … they shoved one and then the other victim. Then they said that: ‘If you take the sticker down we’ll kill you.’”

No one called police and the assailants fled on foot. Tucotte Summers was not there at the time of the incident, but two witnesses confirmed his account of the events to the Montreal Gazette.

The stickers belong to Atalante Québec — an extreme-right group that stages anti-immigration rallies and boasts of its ties to the skinhead band Légitime Violence. Some of its posters refer to non-whites as “parasites” and to liberals as “traitors.”

There is no evidence the attackers belong to either group.

Atalante is based in Quebec City, but its members have ramped up activities in Montreal this year. They ransacked the Montreal offices of VICE News in May to protest its coverage of extreme right movements.

On Saturday, about a dozen Atalante members pasted their lightning-bolt logo across the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district. Within hours, members of Montréal Antifasciste went about removing the propaganda.

Sources say roughly 150 Atalante stickers showed up on street signs, bus shelters and lamp posts in the east end. “Postering” is a tactic in the long-standing turf war between the extreme right and its opponents in Canada, according to one expert.

“These turf battles were common in the 1990s,” said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “Back then you’d have Anti-Racist Action and the neo-Nazi Heritage Front duking it out for space on universities campuses and in cities across Canada.

“(The turf battle) was far more violent back then. There have been some recent incidents outside rallies in Quebec, for example, but in terms of fighting each other while postering, I haven’t heard of anything happening in years.”

Balgord’s network monitors extreme-right-wing movements in Canada and says there has been a rise in Quebec-based hate groups in the past decade.

Atalante members “poster” as a way of initiating its members from the online world into taking real-life action, according to Balgord. Its Facebook following numbers about 5,900, but Atalante Québec’s events rarely draw more than a few dozen young men.

On its Facebook page, Atalante describes itself as a Quebec “identitarian” community group. But Balgord and Maxime Fiset — of the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence — say it mainly exists to spread hateful ideology.

“Putting up posters or going for drinks at a bar is, at least, a real life activity that they use to try to legitimize the movement,” Balgord said. “Of course it’s also meant to radicalize young white men into the hate movement.”

The right-wing group — whose slogans include “Quebec for Quebecers” and “Globalists go home” — hands out food to “Québécois” homeless people in an effort to soften its image. On Saturday, they handed out lunch bags in Montreal featuring their logo.

The group has marched alongside Soldiers of Odin, and some of its members have ties to far-right groups like Storm Alliance and La Meute. During rallies last spring and last summer, its members wore masks and demonstrated at the Lacolle border crossing to protest the arrival of asylum seekers from the United States.

Their rallies are often met with counter-demonstrations from anti-fascists and the riot police frequently intervene in the clashes.

Members of Atalante tend to cover their faces with bandanas to conceal their identity. But Raphäel Levesque — the group’s leader and the frontman for skinhead band Légitime Violence — carries out his actions in the open.

After infiltrating the VICE News office last May, Levesque was charged with intimidation. Atalante did not answer the Montreal Gazette’s request for comment Monday.

When Levesque appears in court on Aug. 16, Montréal Antifascist will show up to “send him a message.”

“We expect that his little friends from Atalante will show up so we’ll be there too,” said one of the protest’s organizers. “The idea is to make sure they don’t have a platform, that as much as possible they have zero space to spread their hateful ideas.”

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