More than 200 people turned out to a rally Thursday evening to show New West is united against bigotry and hate.
Organized by New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy, #NewWestUnited featured speeches from community leaders, including Imam Yahya Momla from the B.C. Muslim Association; Reverend Emilie Smith from St. Barnabas Anglican Church; Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt First Nation; New Westminster MP Peter Julian; Mayor Jonathan Cote; and others. Folks gathered in front of city hall before marching to Queens Avenue United Church
“It was so moving; it was powerful,” Darcy told the Record. “I think the speakers, every single one of them I think touched people deeply, and the community was clearly looking for a way to express themselves against the detestable hate literature that was posted on Queens Avenue United Church.”
The rally was organized after neo-Nazi posters were found in the area surrounding the church, near Sixth Street and Third Avenue. The posters, which read “It’s always going to be us vs. them. Join us before they stomp you,” were believed to be recruiting pamphlets and included a link to a website declaring itself the online headquarters for the IronMarch Global Fascist Fraternity.
“Coming together the way we did makes us so much stronger,” Darcy said, adding that everyone had their own, personal reason for attending to the event.
For Darcy, it was the memory of her father that brought her to the event. He was Jewish. He fought in the Second World War and was a prisoner of war. By the time the war ended, he’d lost his sister, brother-in-law, niece and father in the Holocaust. A few years after the war, he and his family immigrated to Canada. He never told his kids, including Darcy, about his Jewish heritage until a few years before his died.
“My father was right there in my heart,” she said of the moment when she learned about the posters.
Moving forward, Darcy thinks the community will become stronger in the face of this incident and while she hopes events like #NewWestUnited won’t be needed again, she admits that’s unlikely.
“Obviously, we hope we don’t have to (rally), but we know we’ll need to,” she said. “Wherever and whenever the need arises.”