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Extremist Diagolon ‘Terror Tour’ Is Coming to Vancouver

Members have targeted South Asian MPs and celebrated violence. How to respond.

Jen St. Denis 17 Jun 2024The Tyee

Jen St. Denis is a reporter with The Tyee covering civic issues. Find her on X @JenStDen.

Influencers with the extremist racist group Diagolon spend hours making livestreams, trying to spread their message of hatred against immigrants and minorities through the online world on sites like Rumble and X.

Some prominent members have become fixated on hatred of South Asian people, celebrating violent videos showing people in India being hit by trains and complaining about the number of South Asian members of Parliament.

Now they’re planning a real-life foray, including stops in Vancouver and Kamloops, part of a venture they’ve named the “road rage terror tour” according to an ad on X.

According to the post, the tour will be in Ottawa on July 6, Calgary on July 13, Vancouver on July 19, Kamloops on July 20, Edmonton on July 24, Saskatoon on July 25, Hamilton on July 31 and Halifax on Aug. 4. Tickets are $60.

The poster features photos of Jeremy MacKenzie, the founder of Diagolon; his partner, Morgan Guptill; Derek Harrison, also known as Derek Rants; and Alex Vriend.

The plans alarm some anti-hate campaigners.

“They’ve definitely become much more focused on race within the past year, and a lot of their ire is directed towards South Asian communities,” said Peter Smith, a journalist based in Toronto who works with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and has researched Diagolon.

“It’s extremely likely that this tour is actually intended to happen. It’s something that MacKenzie has been talking about wanting to do for years. I do think they would find a real audience and have the potential to make quite a bit of money in the process.”

In a livestream on June 5, MacKenzie complains about the number of South Asian members of Parliament.

“Are you going to do anything about it? We don’t have time, they’re in the streets, they’re outside... stab stab — they’re everywhere,” he tells his audience. “Oh, cool, they’re in the government.” He also mocks South Asian politicians for speaking “Hindu and Punjabi.”

MacKenzie says he believes there are between one million and two million people in Canada who could be organized to “fight” to “advance their own interest.” As he speaks, he casually drops a reference to Jewish people also being a threat.

“We’re talking like maybe a million in the whole country,” MacKenzie says, referring to the number of people he believes could be mobilized to his cause. “Basically 38, 39 million people are floating around... they’re not on the battlefield at all.”

Then he says those unaware people need to get out of the way: “You gotta go, there’s Jews, they’re coming.”

Like many alt-right influencers, MacKenzie uses humour and internet meme culture in his podcasts and livestreams, frequently switching from a light, joking manner to sudden anger. In court testimony, he’s downplayed his own comments as jokes.

He repeatedly uses racist, antisemitic and homophobic slurs. Diagolon’s online mascot, a demonic goat, is featured prominently on the poster for the cross-Canada tour. Also featured is a blood-flecked diagonal slash.

While Vriend is also a prolific livestreamer, he lacks MacKenzie’s stage presence, and his social media feeds are filled with calls to deport immigrants, admiration of white nationalists, pictures of Hitler and antisemitic memes. In an April 17 livestream on X, he recorded himself laughing while watching graphically violent videos of trains hitting people in India.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has also tracked Vriend making statements denying the Holocaust.

Harrison’s recent posts have frequently focused on immigrants from India and opposition to Conservative politicians’ messages of support for multiculturalism and diversity.

A short history of Diagolon

Diagolon came out of a group of livestreamers called the Plaid Army, “a live-streamer collective peddling conspiracy theory and antisemitism,” according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. The name Diagolon refers to a fictional country that runs from Alaska to Florida.

“They’re very militant in their rhetoric. There’s a lot of language like war is coming,” Smith said. “Part of the whole ‘tribe and train’ philosophy is that you have to get together and kind of prepare for conflict or prepare to protect yourself against the hordes of immigrants that are supposedly threatening their view of Canadian life.”

Diagolon came to national attention when its insignia — a black flag with a white diagonal line — was found on items belonging to several people arrested by the RCMP in relation to convoy protests in Coutts, Alberta, in 2022.

At the time, convoy protests had organized in Ottawa and other Canadian cities to protest COVID-19 policies.

Police found guns, ammunition and bulletproof vests and arrested 13 people. Four protesters were charged with conspiring to murder police officers; another 11 were charged with offences that included conspiracy to murder, mischief and possession of a weapon.

Three men charged with mischief were found guilty earlier this year.

The trial of two of the men charged with conspiracy to murder started on June 7.

None of the four people involved in the Diagolon tour were charged.

MacKenzie has said he did not have “strong ties” with the protesters who were charged, but he has testified in court that one of those arrested, Chris Lysak, called him twice from jail.

MacKenzie has repeatedly denied characterization of Diagolon as an extremist or violent organization.

Diagolon has been described as a “Canadian far-right ‘extremist group’” by the U.S. State Department.

According to a 2022 Press Progress report, Canada’s Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre was concerned about the presence of QAnon and Diagolon influencers at the “freedom convoy” protests taking place in January and February 2022. According to documents that had been leaked to Press Progress, ITAC was concerned about the presence of “ideologically motivated extremists” at the protests, including Diagolon, noting the protests provided an opportunity for adherents of extremist ideologies to recruit and network in person.

In 2021, MacKenzie was charged with assault and weapons charges in Saskatchewan. In 2022, he and Guptill were charged with criminal harassment of Nova Scotia’s chief medical health officer. The Saskatchewan charges were stayed after MacKenzie agreed to a peace bond, while the Nova Scotia harassment charge was dropped because it took too long to bring the case to trial.

In a June 5 livestream on Rumble, MacKenzie said fighting the charges has been financially taxing and he is now living in a barn “with no water, no plumbing and a wood stove.” He says donations from supporters paid for around $100,000 of the total $310,000 legal costs.

The RCMP also started an investigation into MacKenzie after he made comments about raping the wife of Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre during a livestream on Telegram with Vriend, according to a CBC report.

When Poilievre made a seemingly spur-of-the-moment appearance at a convoy protest in Nova Scotia this spring, he was photographed in the doorway of an RV that sported a Diagolon flag drawn on the door.

Smith does not believe the photograph was intended to show support for Diagolon. Members have been open about their disdain for the Conservative party and for Poilievre, condemning him for commemorating the history of the Komagata Maru or wearing a head covering while visiting a gurdwara.

How to push back

Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, a sessional faculty member at the University of the Fraser Valley’s history department, said there’s a long history of white supremacist movements in B.C., from the Ku Klux Klan in Abbotsford in the 1920s to the murder of a Sikh man in 1998 by five members of a white supremacist group.

“We’ve got to really be equipped with smart language when we challenge this group and not just say, ‘Oh they popped up out of nowhere,’” Kaur Sandhra said.

Kaur Sandhra recommends two non-profit groups that track racism and accept submissions detailing racist incidents: the BC Community Alliance’s racism incident reporting tool and the Racism Mapping Project.

The B.C. government also has a toll-free racist incident helpline.

Smith said community members can also put pressure on venues that host groups like Diagolon.

On their website, Diagolon organizers say people who buy tickets to their tour dates will not receive information about the venue location until 24 hours before the event.

“The best way to impact change... is to send a message to those venues, and really try to get a grassroots movement going to make sure that they’re not welcome,” Smith said.  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice, Politics

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