The Globe and Mail, Friday, February 10, 1995

John Barber

Antiracist movement grows more violent

    Metro Toronto Police  found  a  disturbing  trove of criminal
paraphernalia  when  they  searched  a  garbage-strewn   basement
apartment  in East York this week.  A stolen crossbow, cartridges
for a .357-calibre  handgun,  a  bomb-making manual complete with
bomb making materials, wiretapping equipment and what  they  took
to be two different kinds of drugs.

    Police  also found a list of members of the Heritage Front, a
notorious neo-Nazi group, along with  the type of cars they drove
and their license-plate numbers.

    "And this jacket  that's  just  a  weapon,"  Detective  Keith
Rogers  says.   It  had a hockeyshin pad stitched into one sleeve
with wire, the ends  of  the  wire protruding menacingly, and two
steel plates fixed to the opposite elbow with heavy bolts.  And a
peace symbol stitched on its back.

    Such is the new face of antiracist activity in Toronto.  From
its inception as a  grassroots  youth  movement  to  counter  the
Heritage  Front,  antiracist activism in Toronto has always had a
wild streak, exemplified  by  the  1993  trashing  of the home of
Front spokesman Gary Schipper.  But now, with the  days  of  mass
protests long gone and moderate antiracist organizers fading from
the  scene,  it  is  re-emerging  as a brand of thuggery scarcely
discernible from that of the neo-Nazis and their skinhead army.

    Police raided the east-end apartment after someone called 911
and asked for "everybody  but  the  police"  to help treat a drug
overdose, Det. Rogers said.   Police  knew  the  address  because
another  resident  had just been charged with threatening a woman
with a loaded handgun.

    On the  same  day,  police  in  neighbouring Scarborough were
investigating a full-scale rumble that took place in the  Kennedy
subway  station  over  the  weekend,  pitting antiracists against

    A gang of  more  than  a  dozen  antiracists armed with heavy
steel pipes had been stalking  the  skinheads  and  succeeded  in
picking  a fight inside the station, police said.  But two of the
antiracists ended up in hospital  with knife wounds.  One of them
sustained three stab wounds. he spilled most of his  bloodon  the
platform and narrowly escaped death.

    "This  is  something that has been comcong for a long time, "
says Bernie Farber, who monitors racist activity for the Canadian
Jewish  Congress.   "The   violence   is  getting  more  intense.
Somebody is going to get killed.

    "It appears those on the left are taking lessons  from  those
on  the  right," he adds.  "They're figuring that what's good for
the goose is goose is good for the gander."

    Other observers of  Toronto's  political  street wars express
surprise at the latest outbreak of violence, however.  Journalist
Clive Thompson, who wrote a history of the militant  youth  group
Anti  racist Action for This Magazine, says the movement appeared
finished this past fall.  he  says  he is "completely floored" by
the week's events.

    The  strengths  of  Anti-Racist  Action  was always its broad
mixture  of  members,   including  well-educated  organizers  and
street-toughs, Mr. Thompson says.  But from the  beginning,  that
mix  produced  disputes  about  how far one goes in counter overt
racist activity.  Do you  chant  slogans and throw the occasional
egg?  Do you smash windows?  DO you smash heads?

    The end of the antiracists' demonstrations  appears  to  have
settled the question.  "There are a good solid core of people who
are  still  heavily  involved  in antiracism," Mr. Thompson says.
"For them it's  probably  a  very  personal thing, just intensely
emotional.  It goes beyond a political fight."

    In short, it becomes gang warfare.

    Toronto could learn just how intense this battle  has  become
as  early  as  next  week.   That's  when  Heritage  Front leader
Wolfgang Droege goes to  trial  on  assault charges stemming from
his role in a 1993 brawl with antiracists.