See something, say something, do something

Hill Times February 14, 2022

Nazi military names and colours worn openly on the street. Yellow stars worn as a symbol and perversion. Women being harassed for wearing masks and threatened with sexual assault.  LGBTQ2S harassed. Individuals swarmed because they are perceived by the occupiers to be counter-protesters, yet no arrests made by police. Occupiers claiming to be patrolling the streets for safety, but in reality it is an intimidation tactic.

Sounds like Germany in the early 1930s. In the 1920s, the German National Socialist Party (the Nazis) had a ragtag list of demands without a cohesive platform, unless one can say anger is a platform. Throw in the Great Depression and the Nazis channelled broad unhappiness into anger and an increasing number of votes. Brownshirt thugs started to remake the country through menace and intimidation, propaganda, and then things got much worse. But the warning signs were there.

Madeline Albright wrote in her must-read book Fascism: A Warning, that fascist leaders “have an aptitude for spectacle—for orchestrating mass gatherings complete with martial music, incendiary rhetoric, loud cheers. … A Fascist is someone who identifies strongly with and claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use whatever means are necessary—including violence—to achieve his or her goals.”

Sounds like Germany back then, and it’s Ottawa now. Nazi symbols and brownshirts, harassment, organized spectacle, intimidation—this is Ottawa now. Occupiers are considering to circle around schools and laugh that “every child matters.”

There is also some sophisticated gaslighting to cast doubt on any individual’s negative experience with the occupiers, and it’s done with the intention to keep the masses quiet.  Men who say “I went down and I didn’t experience any of that,” it’s gaslighting. It assumes that all those people who were harassed and swarmed are all lying. Women who ask “but did you experience it yourself?” I am reminded of Madeline Albright’s memorable quote: There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.  This is pure and simple gaslighting—attempts to make women, parents, BIPOC, Jews, LGBTQ2S all feel like we’re losing our minds.

There is another special kind of hell. It’s the hell for decision-makers who refused to wrap their heads around the white supremacy in Canada that resulted in Indian residential schools and the murders and loss of many, many children. And decision-makers who now faced with white supremacy on the street and are still trying to ignore the red flashing warning signs. It is an occupation with white supremacists within, and it does have significant risks for our city and our democracy. Silence is not an option. Hope is not a plan.

Yes, decision-makers and the military blew it at Oka. It was a disaster because Indigenous demonstrators and allies were not damaging infrastructure, nor intimidating women and minorities, not even blocking anything of importance to the economy. But today, this occupation is blocking infrastructure, using intimidation, threatening violence, and more.

Madeline Albright wrote, “see something, say something, do something.” We cannot sit back while some of our citizens are at risk of intimidation and swarming, while aspects of our infrastructure are shut down, when fascism is loud and proud on our streets.

It’s time for the adults in Ford’s government to do something along with the adults in Trudeau’s government. If we have to bring in another police force, so be it. If we have to bring in the military, so be it. The alternative is that we might have to tell the story about how we failed to challenge white supremacy in our neighbourhoods in the winter of 2022, and how it all went so badly after that.