KKK-hood racism protest prompts response

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

A protest against racism has prompted a new statement from the Town of Grimshaw and also inspired a small follow-up protest.

Jan. 25, local resident Natasha Negraiff staged her own protest at the post office, saying she regrets being silent before.

“Like most residents, I was pretty angry about the protest that happened this last weekend,” she says in a video posted to Facebook.

“I was angry because it never should have had to happen.”

Negraiff says she was “appalled” at the photo of a man in a KKK-style hood that prompted the protest, but let her own fear stop her from speaking out.

“We, in Grimshaw, we’re the ones that are going to set the narrative. How we react, that’s what’s going to be remembered about our town. I’m going to change the narrative,” she says.

She stood at the post office with her own signs opposing racism.

Others have faced blowback for speaking out, including calls to boycott the businesses of the woman who originally posted the photo and who has asked not to be named in media.

Comments on the protest have become so contentious that the Grimshaw General Forum has had to shut down comments and posts at some points in the past two weeks.

Protestors from the umbrella group the Alberta Humanitarian Initiative, who came from out of town to support residents on Jan. 23, say they were followed all the way to Callahoo by a blue truck that allegedly attempted to intimidate them by swerving near them. They have contacted police about the incident.

“A man followed us for hours, from Peace River to Calahoo area. He stopped when we stopped for gas. And made sure to stay with us. My mom noticed him death staring myself and my friend. The only two Black women in sight,” alleges protestor Tiera Williams in a post on Facebook.

“Once we were in the middle of nowhere on a dark snowy road, with just my car, my friend’s car and his truck doing over 110 km, he came flying up behind both our cars, sped right in front of mine and slammed on his brakes to a dead stop. I had to slam on my brakes. At this time my friend was approaching her turn where we would then separate. He pulled over into the shoulder acting like he was turning left…but there was no left turn. My friend turned off and we passed him and he sped up almost bumper to bumper. Had his bright [lights] on and was completely blinding us. I had to put the mirrors up and do my best to see.”

Williams says she had to slow down, and the truck then pulled beside them and allegedly swerved towards them.

“He was terrorizing us,” she alleges.

Williams says she and her mother were badly shaken up after the alleged incident, which they were not able to catch on video.

Williams adds she was focused on the road and that falling snow and the darkness obscured the truck’s license plate.

“This work isn’t a joke. Many of us risked our lives to go to Grimshaw, and support the racialized community there,” she says.

Williams adds, “There were many grateful locals that have been thanking us and were so happy to see that in their town. Lots of positive with the negative.”

Spokesperson for the Jan. 23 protest and co-founder of Inclusive Canada, Taylor McNallie, says it’s “painfully clear that there is work to be done” educating communities about racism.

“It’s also important to note that Grimshaw is not being singled out – the work is everywhere, and the work should be done everywhere,” she says.

Some residents have noted that McNallie is still fighting an assault charge from a previous protest in Red Deer.

She says members of several far right groups including Soldiers of Odin, 3%ers, Proud Boys, Urban Infidels, Canadian Nationalists, Northern Guard C3, Canadian Combat Coalition, and Alberta Patriots attended that Red Deer event.

“Members of these groups had [and continue to] stalk and harass us for months prior, and put out calls throughout their social media channels for their followers to come attack us that day.

“Imagine for one moment: you are a Black woman who has been stalked, harassed, doxxed and receiving deaths threats every day [at one point being told I will be found hanging from a tree if I continue this work] simply for speaking about racism, only to be standing in a field of known white supremacists and watch as they attack my friends and other community members,” she adds.

“My partner is one of the men who got punched in the head, as he tried to serve one of these attackers with a restraining order I had to place against a man by the name of Pat King,” she says in a statement addressing the allegation against her.

Videos from the event show both alleged assaults.

“This matter is ongoing, and one that will turn into a much larger civil rights case to address the lack of action taken by RCMP that day,” McNallie says.

McNallie was just nominated for the Calgary Black Achievement Awards coming up Feb. 6.

Jan. 25, the federal government unani- mously passed a non-binding motion calling on the federal government to declare the far-right group the Proud Boys and other white supremacist groups as terrorist organizations. The move was largely spurred by the involvement of the group in the recent insurrection at the US Capitol.

However, information is still being gathered before the hate groups are officially added to the Canadian list of terrorist organizations.

There is a Grande Prairie chapter of the Soldiers of Odin that became the centre of controversy in 2019 after hosting a dinner at the Legion in the city. The Royal Canadian Legion later issued a directive that they do not support or condone groups like the Soldiers of Odin whose “views and actions are contrary to our values and those of our country.”

Jan. 26, after calls from protestors for a more complete response, Grimshaw town council released a statement on the KKK-style hood incident Jan. 8.

“A demonstration was held in our community on Jan. 23. Council acknowledges people’s right to peacefully protest. We ask all those who participate to peacefully demonstrate, whether in person or through social media, with civility and respect.

“Council recognizes that our community and province was built and will continue to be built by citizens of diverse backgrounds. We realize that racism exists in all communities and ours is no exception.”

The statement then calls on locals to cooperate with the ongoing police investigation and commits to education.

“Council commits to researching, identifying, and engaging resources to create awareness and understanding for our community to learn more about diversity and inclusion.

“This unfortunate incident has made it clear to council that the responsibility to condemn racism falls on all of our citizens including elected officials and community leaders. We strive to continue to do our best as we work through this issue to lead our community where all residents feel welcomed and safe regardless of race or protected ground.”

Mayor Bob Regal has declined any follow-up interviews.

Police have not only identified the man in the photo but now say they have spoken with him. On Jan. 25, they issued a new press release with a renewed call for tips and took at least one statement from a resident.

“The Peace Regional RCMP’s investigation remains active and all information has been presented to the Office of the Crown Prosecution for review and opinion,” the release says.

If anyone has information, please contact Peace Regional RCMP at [780] 624-6677. To remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at [1-800] 222-8477 [TIPS], online at www.P3Tips. com or by using the P3 Tips app available through the Apple App or Google Play store.

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