EDMONTON - A white supremacist rally in Edmonton's downtown lasted only minutes when the demonstrators fled into a subway stairwell after they were greeted by over 100 anti-racist counter-protesters.
Police then blocked subway platform entrances until the roughly two dozen self described white pride demonstrators, most of them masked, were able to leave on a train.
Police spokesman Scott Pattison said at one point as the racist group was nearing the site near Edmonton City Hall, both sides clashed briefly, but police separated them quickly.
"I believe there was some pushing and shoving but it was only momentary," Pattison said, noting there were no injuries or arrests.
As the groups neared City Hall, police kept the anti-racists from crossing the street and getting close to the white pride rally, but both sides shouted insults at each other until the white pride group left.
Anti-racist demonstrators ran from entrance to entrance of the subway in an effort to follow the rally, and expressed their frustration at police who were blocking the doors.
"I think it's a shame that our tax dollars are being used to coddle and protect racist hate groups in our city," said one anti-racist protester with a megaphone.
"Shame on police for coddling extremists. They should be ashamed of themselves," he added.
A similar group gathered Saturday afternoon for a rally at London City Hall, where it was also met by a large group of anti-racists. Police said in a news release that there was "an altercation" between the two groups but that both sides dispersed when police arrived.
”Police were called and attended and intervened prior to anything flaring up, as a result, both groups departed from the location,” London police Const. Ken Steeves said in an interview.
Springtime white supremacists rallies in Alberta have been held in Calgary in previous years, but organizers moved it to Edmonton this year. The Edmonton rally was promoted on several racist websites, but those sites didn't say exactly where it would be.
Anti-racists staged their own rally earlier in the day, and then marched downtown when they heard it was where the pro-white demonstrators were gathering.
Pattison defended the decision by Edmonton police to keep both sides apart.
"I think the whole intent today, from EPS's standpoint, was to preserve the rights and freedoms of both groups and I think they successfully did that. And to maintain peace and order," he said.