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Anti-racism demonstrators outnumber neo-Nazis at Calgary rally

White supremacists walk past a police line during their rally in downtown Calgary on Saturday, March 19, 2011. Police kept them apart from another group holding an anti-racist demonstration nearby.

Larry Macdougal/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Little more than a dozen white supremacists marched for their cause in downtown Calgary this weekend, in a show of force much smaller than some past demonstrations but large enough to raise questions about the public face of the neo-Nazi movement in this city.

A competing rally of about 200 anti-racism protestors also took place on Saturday. About 100 police officers were able to keep the two groups separate, avoiding a repeat of the violent clashes between the two sides that took place in 2009.

Calgary's mayor, Naheed Nenshi, applauded police and defended his city. "Racism of any kind is unacceptable in Calgary and not tolerated by the vast majority of Calgarians," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, there may be some people who wish to express their hatred. However, such people do not reflect the views of Calgarians as events clearly show."

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Two neo-Nazi supporters, who dressed primarily in black, many with faces hidden, were arrested - police said one was detained over an outstanding arrest warrant and that the other was arrested on a concealed weapon charge.

The largest factor in keeping the numbers down may not have been who was there, but who was wasn't. Kyle McKee, who Calgary police call the "micro-fuhrer" and leads Blood and Honour here, is in jail, leaving white nationalists in Calgary without their chief organizer.

The reduced numbers shouldn't be taken as a sign that such groups are waning, according Warren Kinsella, who wrote Web of Hate, a book about organized racism.

"They don't need a whole bunch of people. They actually prefer to have smaller numbers because it makes detection and infiltration easier to avoid," Mr. Kinsella said in an interview. "They operate on the basis that small numbers can do large harm."

Calgary was alone among Canadian cities in hosting a neo-Nazi demonstration on Saturday. But Mr. Kinsella, a former Calgarian, argued this is no reason to believe white supremacists have abandoned those cities.

"There is a danger into being lulled into a false sense of security by minimal numbers," he said.

While noting it is unfair to associate white supremacy with only Calgary, Mr. Kinsella slammed the way police have approached the matter. The Calgary police service employs a hate-crimes co-ordinator, rather than a dedicated unit.

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Paul Stacey, a duty inspector with Calgary Police Service, said that the hate-crimes co-ordinator works with CPS' diversity resources unit. "This is not something we've ignored," he said, arguing that the city has a low rate of hate-crimes. The city's hate-crimes co-ordinator was at the rallies Saturday, "taking names and… figuring out who's who," Mr. Stacey said.

White supremacy "is not a real strong movement," in the city, he added.

With a report from Josh Wingrove in Edmonton

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