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'Not thinly-veiled at all:' Nenshi urging leaders to condemn racism at anti-mask rallies

Last Updated May 10, 2021 at 12:42 pm MDT

(PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Calgary’s outgoing mayor did not mince words on Monday morning, speaking about continued anti-mask protests following a weekend of heavier enforcement.

“I was very, very pleased to see late last week that the Court of Queen’s Bench issued a preliminary injunction against some of these illegal activities and illegal rallies that we’ve been seeing around the province and particularly here in Calgary,” Naheed Nenshi said during a council meeting.

“Some could argue that it is too late. It is not, however, too little.”

Nenshi said it was a “good thing” to see additional arrests over the weekend, and a decline in some protests which was helped by cooler wet weather.

The mayor got some more attention over the weekend for an interview which was shared nationally, where he called out the protests and said they are just “thinly veiled” white nationalism movements. He wanted to clear something up about his statement.

“I said something that was wrong and I should apologize for that. I said that many of these rallies, especially in Calgary, are thinly veiled rallies disguising white nationalism, racism and hatred,” he said. “They’re not thinly veiled at all. They are completely out in public.”

Nenshi said council had made some moves recently to denounce the actions at these events, including condemning the use of hate symbols which have been seen at some of the demonstrations.

“We have seen the use of torches, we have seen imagery from the Charlottesville march used to promote these rallies, we have seen Nazi paraphernalia being flown at these rallies, and we have certainly seen speakers and organizers who have said extraordinarily hateful things about different religious groups and different races. It has to stop.”

Nenshi wanted to offer some “free political advice” and cautioned against platforming people taking part in or setting up the events, and more efforts need to be made to show how unwelcome they are here.

“Especially if you’re a politician or someone who is attempting to speak for others or attempting to show leadership,” he said. “Even if you disagree with the restrictions, even if you don’t like masks, even if you don’t believe in lockdowns, condemn the racists. Tell them that they have no place in your movement.”

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Nenshi said there’s no equivalency between these rallies and protests we saw over the past year calling attention to racial injustice and other systemic concerns in the community, and people who are taking part in the anti-mask movements are not deserving of sympathy.

Over the weekend, two ringleaders of major anti-mask events were arrested by police for continuing to defy COVID-19 health orders.

This followed new protocols announced by the provincial government last week aimed at bringing an end to the protests as we try to end the third wave of the virus and get to a point where most people can be vaccinated by the start of the summer.