‘Not about heat, it’s not about light’: Calgary mayor condemns use of tiki torches at protest

CALGARY — Calling it “disgusting behaviour” that needs to be “denounced strongly” Mayor Naheed Nenshi called out anti-lockdown protesters who carried tiki torches through downtown Calgary over the weekend.

Hundreds of protesters — both those calling for an end to mask mandates and other health measures, and those who oppose that group — converged at city hall on Saturday, each side hurling insults and accusations at the other.

There was also a heavy police presence on Saturday to keep things peaceful but several anti-mask protesters were seen carrying tiki torches, which have a connection to a deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

“It has been increasingly clear to me over the last several months that these marches that pretend they are about lifting the lockdown — there is no lockdown by the way, shops are open, schools are open, restaurants are open, people have the ability to go out and do many, many things that they normally would have done — have increasingly become forums for hatred, for white nationalist groups and others to attach themselves to this conversation, such that the original discussion is completely lost,” said Nenshi on Monday morning. 

“And certainly many of us have been raising the alarm on this for some time. I know Coun. (Jyoti) Gondek and I in particular, even in the summer and the fall, were saying it’s time to stop pretending these protests are about anything other than what they are actually about.

“So when we see people with torches marching through the downtown core, we know what that means. It’s not about heat, it’s not about light, don’t be ridiculous. When we see people advertising these marches using pictures from Charlottesville, we know what that means, we know who that’s meant to intimidate, and I will tell you right now as a person of colour in this city, I will never be intimidated by that.”

Nenshi said torches are becoming a symbol of hate.

“It’s not about the tiki, it’s the fact they’re burning torches,” he said.

“What are those torches used for? They’re used to light crosses on fire. This is disgusting behavior and frankly we need to denounce it and we need to denounce strongly.”

The protest group, called March for Freedom has been holding demonstrations in downtown Calgary almost on a weekly basis, despite bans on outdoor gatherings that have come and gone, since last year.

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