Hundreds clash over Nanaimo tent city, but Soldiers of Odin a no-show
A standoff erupted between hundreds of protesters and residents of Nanaimo's tent city on Sunday, while the group that threatened to dismantle the encampment was nowhere to be found.
Police had to step in the middle of the dispute, which took place at the encampment dubbed "DisconTent City" on the city's waterfront.
On Friday, in a Facebook post that has since been deleted, the far-right group known as Soldiers of Odin said it intended to dismantle the encampment Sunday.
"Due to continued inaction by authorities, and reports of child sex trafficking in the camp. SOO will be returning to Nanaimo to facilitate the removal of Discontent City this Sunday at 1:00 p.m.," the group wrote. "We ask four friends supporters and general public to stay away from the this [sic] area due to safety concerns."
That prompted calls for a counter-protest by supporters of the camp.
The result on Sunday was a heated one as skirmishes broke out between the two groups – but no one who publicly identified themselves from Soldiers of Odin showed up.
"It's absolutely frustrating when this gets to this point," said one man protesting against the camp. "I mean, look around. How many RCMP are here? They're not free. This is consuming our resources."
But supporters of the encampment say allegations that child sex trafficking is taking place there are untrue and fear-mongering.
"It's always been about protecting the camp and getting our government to build more housing," said tent city spokeswoman Amber McGrath.
More than a thousand people swarmed the area amid a heavy police presence, with Mounties stepping in on several occasions to separate both sides.
Nanaimo RCMP say four people were arrested in total, some for their activities at the demonstration and others on oustanding warrants. Police described the protest as "generally peaceful" and well-attended by both sides.
Once the crowds dissipated and hostilities simmered, the Soldiers of Odin released a new video message on Facebook that can only be described as taunting.
"You've made yourselves look worse than I ever could. Did you really think we were coming? You've been trolled," said Soldiers of Odin's Vancouver Island president Conrad Peach, laughing.
The post was quickly removed from Facebook.
CTV News has reached out to Nanaimo RCMP for comment.
Last week, the B.C. Supreme Court denied the City of Nanaimo's request to enforce a fire safety order that would have allowed it to clear out the camp.
Over a thousand people in downtown #Nanaimo right now protesting. There’s a hostile divide between citizens on whether #DisconTentCity should be removed. Heavy police presence. Soldiers Of Odin expected to attend but haven’t as of yet. @CTVNews pic.twitter.com/OMpNw2iQ0C— Andrew Garland (@CTVNewsAndy) August 19, 2018