A planned anti-racism car rally over the weekend has been postponed after organizers say they received a threatening message.
Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network, a provincial program that aims to prevent incidents of racism and hate, had planned on holding an anti-racism car rally on Sunday afternoon at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo followed by an anti-racism virtual panel.
Janis Harris, who is part of the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network’s Nanaimo-Ladysmith chapter and is one of the rally’s organizers, said the event was created as a way for people to visibly take a stand against racism.
“We have been working with a group of people for almost a year now in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith area and our mandate is to create critical risk response protocol for the communities and to also do community events,” explained Janis Harris, who is part of the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network’s Nanaimo-Ladysmith chapter and was one of the organizer’s of Sunday’s event.
Harris said participants were to gather safely at the VIU parking lot, where they would place anti-racism signage on their vehicles and then head out on a cruise along a pre-planned route that was to be revealed once they arrived.
“We had a route map that was going to be handed out at the actual location starting place to kind of prevent things like people proactively creating difficulties for us,” she said.
However, hours before the event was scheduled to begin, one of the organizers received a threatening e-mail warning that someone would come to the event and starting shooting at people, according to Harris.
“[One of the organizers] received an email that was titled anti-white rally and it just said that ‘we will shoot anyone who shows up to participate,’ and it was signed by the Proud Boys,” she said.
Initially shocked, Harris said organizers wanted to continue onwards with the event but after consultation with the RCMP, the decision was made to postpone the car rally for a variety of safety reasons. She said with such little notice, the RCMP just didn’t have the resources available to provide adequate protection to participants during the event.
“It’s just too risky, too much of a liability too risky, and [RCMP] wouldn’t have time to put proper protections in place for us to carry on,” Harris said. “We’re really looking at it as postponement instead of a cancellation.”
Harris said the e-mail is a prime example of exactly the kind of rhetoric that the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network is attempting to stamp out and highlights the need for such an event.
“Hate comes in all forms and this is just one very violent form,” she said. “But you know, instead of backing off, we’re actually trying to address the issue.”
Rachna Singh, the province’s parliamentary secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, called the threats totally unacceptable and intolerable.
“I strongly condemn the behaviour of these individuals and offer my support to the staff and organizers of the car rally and all their community partners,” Singh said in a statement.
Gary O’Brien, media spokesperson for the Nanaimo RCMP, said while he couldn’t provide specific details about the nature of the threat, an investigation is underway. He also said with such little notice, there wasn’t enough time to put the necessary protections in place for the event to safely continue.
“We weren’t expecting any issues and then at the last second this came on the radar and we couldn’t give it the [resources] that it would deserve. So, for everybody’s best interest they just decided to cancel it,” O’Brien said.
Meanwhile, Harris said organizers are now more determined than ever to hold the event sooner rather than later and hopes people can come out and show their support.
“We’re going to need numbers, people stepping up, and loud voices helping us take a stand because we need to match this level of pushback with our level of fortitude and commitment to the importance of making Nanaimo and Ladysmith a safer for all people,” she said.