Thousands of people faced frigid weather on Saturday in downtown Toronto in support of what the organizers labelled a National Day of Action Against Islamophobia and White Supremacy.
People of all ages energetically exchanged chants promoting inclusion and solidarity with chants of “All of us or none of us” and the aim to “Rise up (and) fight back” against poverty, sexism, and other issues seen as rooted in discrimination. Indigenous rights and colonialism in North America were also highlighted with chants of, “No Muslim ban on stolen land.
The protest began in front of the U.S. consulate on University Avenue with speakers. It then moved on to a march to Yonge Street, ending on Queen Street with more fervent speeches and memorable performances. While protests were organized across Ontario, the Toronto-based demonstration was led by Walied Khogali, community organizer and activist, as well as Black Lives Matter members, and the organization’s co-founder Yusra Khogs.
Comparisons between Donald Trump’s ideologies and those of Nazi Germany continued to be made as the Second World War holocaust survivor and activist Suzanne Weiss spoke.
“Jews fell victim of fanatical hatred born of white supremacy. This evil doctrine is still alive today,” she said.
Weiss continued, “White supremacy today targets, above all, people who are Black, Latino, Asian, and Islamic… racist hate leads white supremacists to massacre in a Quebec City mosque, just as in a South Carolina Black church.”
The comparison referred to the nine murders committed by Dylann Roof two years ago.
A performance by Naima Hassan shared her experiences as a Black Muslim woman in Canada through poetry. She described herself as feeling constantly “on foreign soil” due to racism, sexism and the Islamophobia she has faced throughout her life.
The protest was not only an event to show solidarity but also provided a platform for people to express the experiences that inspired the movement.
Khogs’s speech has been receiving strong criticism after she called Prime Minister Trudeau a “white supremacist terrorist.”
Hassan Elbaytam, President of the Humber Muslim Students Association commented on the statement made by Khogs.
“Personally, I find this comment to be cruel and uncalled for. Prime Minister Trudeau was nothing but supportive to the people affected by the Quebec shooting and the ban imposed in the U.S. … People might disagree with some of his policies, but the best thing to do is to discuss the disagreements [without the] name calling.” he said.
Of the larger event last weekend, Elbaytam said he appreciates and thanks the organizers for all the support they have given.
“It brings joy to my heart that the majority of the public opinion is towards tolerance and acceptance to all people, and not the idea based on hate and discrimination,” he said. “The protest shows a large format of solidarity with the people affected by the ban.”
Elbaytam also said he thinks the protest will pressure the Canadian government to act against the ban ensuring that no Canadians are affected; however, he confirmed that the Muslim Students Association is not planning to host any events in correspondence with Saturday’s protest. He said the MSA is mainly focused on helping students on campus and prefers not to take any political stances.
“The MSA holds Friday prayers on campus in room D223. The sermon this week was in response to the Quebec incident and a prayer was held in their memory,” said Elbaytam.