Régis Labeaume, the right-wing Mayor of Quebec City, has made inflammatory comments today against anti-racist protesters, and against me personally. The substance of his comments have been reported here.
For those that don’t understand French, Mayor Labeaume talked about a “Singh gang”, referred to antifa protesters repeatedly as “cretins”, stated that the protesters that destroy property are “always from Montreal”, and told the protesters to “go somewhere else than Quebec City” and that “Quebec City is not for you”. Lots more too.
This is my public on-the-record reply:
Mayor Labeaume, like Donald Trump, is claiming equivalency between anti-racists — and the varied tactics and strategies we use — and the racist far-right. His false equivalency, like Donald Trump’s after Charlottesville, is absurd. With his comments today, Mayor Labeaume is essentially pandering to racists in Quebec City, repeating a disgusting tactic he has used since he’s been a public figure.
More generally, Mayor Labeaume is replicating the rhetoric of the racist far-right by essentially telling people to “go back to where you came from”. This is the main talking point of far-right anti-immigrant groups, including the racists of La Meute, the Storm Alliance, and Soldiers of Odin, all of whom have a strong presence in Mayor Labeaume’s Quebec City.
Specifically, in singling me out, Mayor Labeaume is in effect encouraging the internet trolls and anonymous far-right activists who on a daily basis make racist comments, including threats, against me personally. His personalization of me is dangerous and inflammatory. Moreover, it’s incorrect. I wasn’t leading any group or groups. I was an active participant in the anti-racist mobilization on Sunday, and my role was quite public and open, and witnessed widely by fellow protesters and the media. According to one report: “Avant de se faire arrêter violemment, le militant Jaggi Singh ne faisait que danser et scander des slogans, ou partageait quelques informations aux contre-manifestant-e-s.” [tr: Before being arrested violently, the activist Jaggi Singh was dancing and shouting slogans, or sharing information with the counter-demonstrators.]
Labeaume, like Trump, has the mentality of a bigot, but with a huge media platform. In talking about “la gang à Singh” Labeaume sounds like those far-right conspiracy theorists who blame everything on George Soros. The far-right in Quebec has taken up the theme that I’m personally responsible for anti-fascist organizing, and Labeaume repeats their false talking point. Labeaume remarks reminds me of this racist skinhead, but with a suit and tie (go to 1:35).
The Mayor of Quebec City is power-tripping if he thinks he can decide whether I, or anyone else, is welcome to his city. There is no border between Montreal and Quebec City (and if there was, I wouldn’t respect it anyways). I will definitely continue to visit Quebec City, on my own terms, and I look forward to participating in more demonstrations there, and visiting friends and comrades.
Moreover, I feel compelled to add that I have strong connections to Quebec City. I spent a summer in Quebec City a long time ago, working at the Complexe Scientifique on Rue Einstein, trying to improve my French. I was privileged to hear a speech by the late, great, unionist Michel Chartrand in Quebec City, which helped to improve my French in other unpublishable profane ways. I spent a full year engaged in social justice popular education work, spending a significant amount of time in Quebec City in advance of the mass protests against the Summit of the Americas in 2001. I might be a Toronto-born, Montreal-living, anarchist activist, but the Mayor of Quebec will not dictate to me (or anyone else) when and how I can visit Quebec City.
Instead of lashing out at anti-racist protesters, perhaps Labeaume should look inwards at his own complicity for the current xenophobic environment in Quebec City, for which he bears much responsibility. In the past generation a toxic mix of inflammatory talk radio, pandering politicians like Labeaume, and cynicism has made Quebec City into a base for the racist far-right, where anti-immigrant groups feel like they can organize openly with impunity. By insulting anti-racist protesters, Labeaume is providing a smokescreen for his own inaction and apathy in the face of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, which has had murderous consequences in Quebec City.
Importantly, it’s clear that neither the Mayor nor the police of Quebec City are capable of dealing with the far-right racist threat in their City, and in significant ways they are complicit in the rise of the far-right. Instead, anti-fascist activists, from Quebec City, Montreal and beyond, will rely on the model of grassroots organizing involving popular education, supporting migrants and other communities under attack and, yes, engaging in direct action to confront far-right racists and fascists when necessary.
Fortunately, Quebec City is much more than inflammatory talk radio, Mayor Labeaume, and racist, right-wing groups. There is a beautiful community in Quebec City, that I have known well in the past. My experiences in Quebec City, with the exception of far-right racists and the police, have been positive. I have learned so much from other organizers in the Quebec City community, and commend their resilience and organizing. Labeaume’s recent comments, which are really about pandering to part of his racist base, will simply increase the resolve of anti-racists and anti-fascists to effectively mobilize, despite the current Mayor.
To repeat some slogans on Quebec City’s streets on Sunday: “Everyone detests racists! Welcome refugees, immigrants, Muslims, Haitians, and everyone!” (The slogans sound better in French!)
— Jaggi Singh, anti-fascist anarchist activist