“Just doing my job”: Police and private security protect far-right politician Maxime Bernier from protestors in Surrey
On the morning of Wednesday, September 25th, the Surrey Board of Trade hosted a town hall with far-right politician Maxime Bernier to ask how his People’s Party of Canada (PPC) will “create economic opportunities for all Canadians.” A group of nine protestors gathered outside the main doors of the Sheraton Hotel as town hall-goers trickled into the auditorium inside. Our numbers were small, which offered us a chance to enter the building and punctuate the event’s rhythm with chants and heckling.
Entering the hotel was disorienting, each moment unravelling both quickly and slowly. Our comrades leading the way into the building were immediately assaulted by security guards and hotel staff, who repeatedly pushed them into walls and doors to try to keep us out. I was carrying a microphone and leading the group in chants as we moved through the hotel lobby towards the auditorium where Bernier was speaking. Several security guards barricaded the door to the auditorium with their bodies, preventing us from entering. Staff ran towards us in a frenzy and tried to wrest the microphone from me, gripping and twisting my wrists as they yanked at the mic to either disconnect it from the speaker or snap the cord.
One security guard was visibly enraged and nearly in tears over our choice to “trespass” onto private property to disrupt the event. He refused to accept that he and his coworkers were acting to protect white supremacy and instead repeated, “I’m just doing my job.”
This security guard’s attitude offers a glimpse of the PPC’s appeal to some workers in Canada. Under the looming economic and climate crisis, many people in Canada feel threatened, but some Canadians – especially white, middle class, property and business owners – feel that they deserve a special security and stability above others, because they are Canadian citizens and members of civil society. The PPC stokes these energies by calling for the defence of Canada’s dominance over stolen Native land, nurturing anti-immigrant and anti-muslim racism, fortifying the power of the nuclear family structure, denying climate change, and promising to slash taxes and social spending. “Just doing our jobs,” in this context, means participating in this misdirection.
Bernier breathes air onto the fascistic embers underlying Canada’s civil society. Bernier and the PPC normalize the anti-migrant, and particularly anti-Muslim racism that is stated more overtly and inaccessibly by the Soldiers of Odin. They also provide a reasonable-seeming policy framework for the fanatical, colonial Yellow Vests Canada activists that push for oil and gas extraction and pipeline construction against any and all struggles and national rights of Indigenous nations. With these acts, these groups attempt to protect the power that Canada has amassed on the backs of the global south and Indigenous nations whose territories are occupied by Canada.
The point of our counterrally was not to change the minds of PPC supporters, security guards, or cops. As one comrade said, we were there “to change the minds of people who are oppressed.” Watching my comrades stand up to security guards and police saying, “don’t push me,” gave me the courage to do the same and helped show me that we as oppressed people have agency to fight back. These moments can help open up the collective imaginary of what we can accomplish when we are the head and heart of an organized, collective, grassroots movement.