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Rally organized at Halifax’s Cornwallis statue for victims of Charlottesville race riots
A rally has been planned at Halifax's Edward Cornwallis statue as a show of solidarity for the victims of the race riots in Charlottesville this weekend.
Hundreds of protesters gathered peacefully in Toronto on Monday to demonstrate in front of the United States consulate.
The rally was meant to express opposition to white supremacists and racism after a Unite the Right rally turned violent in Charlottesville, Va. Many at that rally were seen carrying symbols of hatred, including Confederate flags and Nazi paraphernalia.
“It’s terrifying. Sometimes it feels that we're living in dystopian novel,” says Rabbi Raysh Weiss of the Shaar Shalom Synagogue in Halifax.
Rabbi Raysh Weiss moved to Halifax last year from the United States, and says while things are somewhat friendlier, she's noticed people are becoming more quick to anger.
“Even here I feel like there are moments where you just see that civil discourse slipping away. It's like a contagion,” says Weiss.
Reaction came at all levels in Halifax, including from Mayor Mike Savage, who tweeted that he and all Canadian mayors stand with the mayor of Charlottesville in condemning neo-Nazi and fascist behavior.
“It's a terrible thing to see that kind of hatred and anger spew out at any time,” Savage says “It's just not right. That's just not an acceptable way to react to things that you don't like.”
The marchers in Virginia originally gathered to save a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from being torn down. Some say Savage faces a similar conflict with controversial city founder Edward Cornwallis’s statue.
“We can't react all the time to idiots on the right, alt-right, supremacists,” Savage says. “We have a process here to look at how we deal with the Cornwallis name in Halifax. It's not going to please everybody whatever we do.”
For activist El Jones, that process may no longer be appropriate. She says seemingly small symbols, like statues or flags, can be used to incite much larger acts of violence.
“The question is at what point does it become dangerous or unsafe to maintain these symbols? How long do we need to wait for people to hold a similar event here? How much more proof do we need that these statues are dangerous?” Jones says.
For Jones, the best reaction would be to listen. She says incidents of racism and hatred happen all the time but are often dismissed, which can lead to violence like we've seen in Charlottesville.
“Perhaps next time somebody addresses racism in this community that isn't a cross-burning or a straight out Nazi march with swastika arm bands, it might be more productive for us as communities to actually listen to that rather than getting defensive,” she says.
Halifax’s rally will begin Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Emily Baron Cadloff.