After a tense standoff with anti-racism protesters got physical on Sunday, anti-immigrant groups like the Soldiers of Odin are finding themselves front-and-center in Vancouver.
The Soldiers of Odin are a spin-off of the Finnish group by the same name, who say they protect Europe’s women and children from migrant sex attacks.
Group member Mike Montague spoke to Global News about the altercation – he says that the Soldiers of Odin were merely defending themselves.
“Our member was flying a Canadian Flag and these guys are communists and they don’t agree with our government and democracy so they grabbed the flag from our guy and hit him with it and that’s where you see our guys.”
Despite aligning themselves against an anti-racism group, Montague insisted that the group is not racist at its core.
He says they focus on picking up needles and helping where they can in the community.
Crossing the line
On the other hand, a local expert on right-wing hate groups says the Soldiers of Odin have tried to make themselves out to be a non-violent community group for years.
Ryan Scrivens of The International Cybercrime Research Centre says the confrontation is uncharacteristic, as they have traditionally tried to separate themselves from other militant far-right groups by avoiding violence.
“Now it seems like they’re crossing over that line.”
He also says while there’s speculation these groups are being emboldened by the “Trump Effect,” there’s more to it than having a so-called “alt-right”-friendly president in the White House.
Scrivens says groups like the Soldiers of Odin started gaining traction in Canada more than a year ago.
“We need to step back a bit and see what was happening even before Trump. They started to make their presence known last year in Canada around the Syrian refugee crisis so those sort of things have emboldened the movement. And when you get ISIS-inspired attacks or even attacks inspired by radical Islam in London, for example, it really shakes them up.”
Scrivens says he’s heard from law enforcement sources that members of the Soldiers of Odin have committed similar cases of violence in the region prior to this weekend that went undocumented.
With files from Jeremy Lye