WATCH: There was a clash of words near Nanaimo’s tent city on Sunday. That’s where hundreds came out with opposing views, rallying in front of Discontent City. All coming after the Soldiers of Odin said they would “facilitate the removal” of the camp. But as Kendall Hanson tells us, the far-right group was a no-show.
Supporters and occupants of Nanaimo’s tent city barricaded the entrance and armed themselves with weapons Sunday afternoon expecting a clash.
“That’s my primary job here,” said Billy, a tent city resident. “To ensure that people are protected and nobody comes to harm.”
He was worried about the threat by controversial right-wing group Soldiers of Odin.
The threat, made online Friday, was to “facilitate the removal” of the camp this afternoon.
Close to 800 people, including supporters of tent city’s homeless as well as those who’d like to see it shut down immediately, turned out.
A group of grandmothers linked arms to block entry into the camp.
“Why? To keep homeless from being evicted and thrown back on the streets with nowhere to go,” said an anoymous Victoria resident who felt compelled to be here.
“These people come and steal from my yard regularly. Almost every month actually and it would be nice to just see this gone,” said Robert Yateman, a Nanaimo resident.
But Sunday’s main event never came to pass.
The Soldiers of Odin never appeared but that didn’t stop frustrations from coming to the surface. There were some yelling matches and at one point, someone threw some small objects at the tent city entry and was then spoken to by RCMP.
Nanaimo’s acting mayor passed out cookies as an act of non-violence.
“It’s a sad situation and Nanaimo is not alone in having a homeless problem,” said Gord Fuller, Nanaimo’s acting mayor. “We really need to look at it holistically on all levels of the government. Let’s not just blame the municipality.”
A large RCMP contingent intending on keeping the peace shut down Esplanade Street out of concern for public safety.
After several hours, people start to leave and those on the tent city side celebrated.
“We’re getting to know our community and we’re getting stronger each time we come together,” said Amber McGrath, a tent city supporter. “We’re just going to get stronger and stronger.”
As for those wanting to see tent city gone, McGrath said it’s sad and everyone needs a home.
This afternoon, Conrad Peach, the president of the Soldiers of Odin Vancouver Island chapter, said in a video posted on social media:
“Did you really think we coming? You’ve been trolled.”