A group planning to protest the rodeo at the Chilliwack Fair this weekend said it won’t show up after receiving threats of violence. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress file)

Chilliwack rodeo protest cancelled as animal rights group receives threats of violence

Fear for safety from possible counter-protest by Soldiers of Odin also a factor

A group planning a peaceful protest at the rodeo at the Chilliwack Fair this weekend cancelled its event after receiving threats of violence and word of a counter-protest by a far right, potentially racist organization.

The Fraser Valley Animal Rights Association (FVARA) formed recently with plans to meet at the exhibition grounds to express opposition to the Chilliwack rodeo.

Late Thursday night, the organization issued a statement saying they received “multiple threats of violence” as well as word of a planned counter-protest by the Soldiers of Odin. The Soldiers of Odin are an anti-immigration vigilante group founded in Finland, although the Vancouver chapter claims to be independent and not associated to racist or biker groups.

• RELATED: Soldiers of Odin confront supporters of B.C. tent city

“Although we continue to passionately oppose the rodeo, it has become clear that this protest will not generate the peaceful dialogue we hope to engage in, and we cannot encourage anyone to put their safety at risk,” the FVARA statement said. “With these factors in mind, we are cancelling the FVARA rodeo protest on August 12.”

Asked how the threats were received, an emailed response said it was via social media. They were not sent directly to FVARA but were sent privately by “good citizens” who took screenshots of “multiple closed Facebook groups where violence was being planned against protestors.”

“We have contacted the RCMP and are in the process of filing a police report,” the unsigned email response said. “Many protestors who are unaffiliated with FVARA are still planning to protest the rodeo this weekend, and we have requested RCMP support for them.”

The email writer said that for reasons of personal safety, they did not want to give names.

The rodeo has been somewhat controversial as the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) started a campaign last year to stop it, or at least the tie-down roping and steer wrestling events.

Back in the fall, the Chilliwack Fair Society agreed to research the subject and review the rodeo events. In September, the decision was made to continue with tie-down roping and steer wrestling, albeit with some rule changes.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack rodeo to continue tie-down roping and steer wrestling

Recently the anti-rodeo campaign was reinvigorated with the VHS targeting advertisers. That led to the Chilliwack Fair to threaten legal action, arguing the anti-rodeo campaign led to threats and violated anti-spam laws.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack Fair says humane society’s anti-rodeo campaign has led to threats

Even well-known actress and animal rights activist Pamela Anderson Tweeted about the Chilliwack rodeo to her one million followers.

The FVARA said in its statement cancelling the protest that harassment of rodeo attendees or employees was not to be condoned in any form, and they hoped they would be granted that same courtesy.

“Unfortunately, this was not the case.

“Although this experience has been deeply disheartening, it has only reaffirmed the importance of campaigning for animal rights in the Fraser Valley. The lesson we have learned from the hostile responses we received is that we must not give up, but instead redirect our attention toward more productive forms of activism, such as working to enact policies that prohibit animal abuse.”


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paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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