Vancouver Police are facing criticism over their handling of an anti-immigrant group that clashed with anti-racism protestors at a march on Sunday.
Members of the Soldiers of Odin showed up at the protest at Victory Square and tensions rose, even turning physical.
In a statement, VPD say they arrested three men and held them until the protest was over, but they were released without charge.
But witnesses say once released, they mocked protesters still milling about.
March organizer Imtiaz Popat says he wants to see more done to keep protesters safe.
“If these people were maybe Muslim or black or whatever, they would be called terrorists and they would be arrested…like they’ve been doing.”
Popat says police know who these agitators are, and he would like to see them charged in the future.
In a statement, the VPD say the Soldiers of Odin were released because “it was determined their detention was no longer needed to keep the peace.”
“In my 25-plus years of activism, I have never seen this before.”
Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan says people were visibly shaken, crying and upset after the clash.
Kwan was getting set to speak at the rally when the Soldiers of Odin showed up.
She says she still can’t believe it happened.
“All kinds of emotions…disbelief, shock, that this was actually happening in Vancouver, East Vancouver no less. That people would outright, blatantly say that they’re anti-immigrant, that racial slurs were exchanged, and to witness that was something else in 2017.”
Kwan blames rising anti-immigrant sentiment, along with the election of President Donald Trump for the overt racism.
She says it may have been subtle before, but now people feel comfortable allowing racism to come to the surface.