As a civil case continues to take place attempting to hold the organizers of the deadly Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia accountable, we take a closer look at the Canadians who crossed the border to take part and those who cheered them on from home.
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
In 2017, more than a hundred white supremacists marched through the University of Virginia campus, carrying tiki torches, and chanting “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan “blood and soil.” Encountering counter-protestors, a fight ensued where the marchers swung and threw the lit torches.
The following day, white supremacists laid siege to Charlottesville, menacing Sabbath worshippers across the street from a local synagogue, and attacking anti-fascist counter-protesters.
Forty minutes before the rally’s scheduled start in Emancipation Park, the Virginia State Police declared the event an unlawful gathering, and while evacuating the park, pushed the white supremacists into a crowd of counter-protestors, escalating the situation and resulting in a melee.
In a parking lot close to the local police station, six UTR participants cornered and beat DeAndre Harris, a Black counter-protester, with poles, a metal pipe, and slabs of wood. Four of the attackers were convicted.
An hour and a half after the declaration by police, James Alex Fields Jr. accelerated his car through a crowd of counter-protestors, injuring dozens and murdering 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Fields was convicted of first-degree murder, among other charges related to the attack, and pled guilty to 29 federal hate charges. Avoiding the death penalty, he was sentenced to multiple lifetimes in prison.
At the time, it was known that at least a handful of Canadians participated in Unite the Right in Charlottesville. Now, four years later, and with additional supporters identified, we take a closer look at what they were saying in private spaces.
“I did it mostly 'For the lulz’”
Organizers of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia are currently defendants in a civil lawsuit filed by members of the community who had opposed the neo-Nazi event, many of whom were injured in the attack.
Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler, Christopher Cantwell, and Matthew Heimbach are among the 24 defendants who have been standing trial since late October 2021. The men all took leadership roles in the rally, which the plaintiffs allege was never intended to be a peaceful protest, but rather that the defendants “conspired to plan, promote, and carry out the violent events in Charlottesville.” In Virginia, the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 allows victims to sue when there is a suspected conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence.
North of the border, young men associated with the Canadian Super Players and Montreal Storm Discord servers, as well as the identitarian group Generation Identity, coordinated travel, lodging, and their participation in Unite the Right, all the while being cheered on by supporters who were not able to make the trip to Charlottesville.
The National Post reported that as Date, Zafirov had coordinated to purchase protective gear from Americans in a white supremacist server, because, in his words “we obviously will not be able to bring protective gear like 5s and so on through the border.”
A few days after UTR, Zafirov posted in the Canadian Super Players about an American attendee who had lost his job for his part in the rally.
“Our enemies are everywhere and control almost every levels [sic] of our society,” Zafirov wrote, “They want you and your family dead and they think it's funny.”
Despite anti-fascists’ extensive coverage of Zafirov’s longstanding white supremacist convictions, he is currently a doctoral candidate in accounting at the University of California Los Angeles Anderson School of Business. In a 2019 Medium post, he wrote that it had been well over a year since he had participated in "dissident activist groups."
Vincent Bélanger-Mercure is another member of Canadian Super Players and Montreal Storm, whose academic career has not been deterred by his participation in a violent white supremacist rally or his substantial, publicly available history of fascist rhetoric.
Currently a master’s student in the Department of Biological Sciences at l'Université de Montréal, Bélanger-Mercure attended Unite the Right alongside Zafirov and other Canadians. He was exposed as a participant in UTR after anti-racist activists shared photos of him captured from the VICE documentary, “Charlottesville: Race and Terror.”
"I did it mostly 'For the lulz,' meaning I expected to be entertained and it was indeed the case," Belanger-Mercure reportedly told The Canadian Press in a Facebook message.
Belanger-Mercure said while he is not a white supremacist, "I'm not ashamed of being white either.”
In 2016, well before the rally in Virginia, students in Bélanger-Mercure’s department at L'Université du Québec à Montréal brought forward a 14-page document detailing inappropriate, sexist messages he reportedly sent to them or posted on social media. Following this, a biology student alleges that a university representative told students they “would no longer be seeing [Bélanger-Mercure] around anymore.”
Following his participation in UTR, Bélanger-Mercure became a host of the “Ensign Hour,” a now-defunct anti-immigration and overtly racist podcast. The Ensign Hour was a direct successor to “This Hour Has 88 Minutes,” a neo-Nazi podcast shut down by a joint VICE Canada and Canadian Anti-Hate Network investigation that exposed its hosts.
In a 2019 episode of the Ensign Hour, Bélanger-Mercure told his co-hosts, Tyler Hall-Kuch and Bernardo Garcia, that he was prevented from entering the United States after being questioned at the border about his presence at Charlottesville.
Bélanger-Mercure is currently on Twitter under a username nearly identical to the ones he used years ago in Montreal Storm and Canadian Super Players, where he continues to post fascist rhetoric. He has referred to Black people as “joggers” -- coded language for the n-word, referring to Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging when he was killed by two white men -- and said that Black people are “fundamentally immoral.”
His antisemitism includes using the triple parentheses, or “echoes” to identify someone perceived as Jewish, while calling someone a “Disgusting [[[shill]]] hoaxer.” Further tweets engage in Holocaust denialism, using the phrase the “600 gorillions lampshades hoax,” an antisemitic reference to the doubts about the accuracy of the number of Jewish people killed during the Shoah and a persistent myth about Nazi lampshades made of victims’ skin.
On multiple occasions, he has called for segregation to “protect human biodiversity.” He has also harassed women who have written about him.
“That's what happens to traitors"
Shawn Beauvais-MacDonald, who went by “FriendlyFash” on Discord, is another Canadian who was filmed alongside Bélanger-Mercure in the VICE documentary. For his participation, he was suspended from the Islamophobic hate group La Meute. The Montreal Gazette reported that he told them he went to Charlottesville to defend the beliefs laid out in the 14 words (a white supremacist slogan).
Beauvais-MacDonald may have a connection to Heather Heyer's murderer, as it appears as though James Fields was carrying the shield Beauvais-MacDonald had been seen with earlier in the day.
Do you know this man? He gave James Alex Fields a shield on August 12, 2017. pic.twitter.com/ZbRhzFFdOP— Shawn Breen (@shawnpbreen) December 9, 2018
“No one should have died that day,” Beauvais-MacDonald told the Gazette, “No one would have died had the police done their job.”
His disappointment in the fatalities related to the rally — Heather Heyer, a counter-protester was killed by James Fields when he rammed his car into a crowd; and two Virginia State troopers died in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville — was not universally shared in the Canadian Super Players server.
Clayton Sanford (as “Axe in the Deep”) wrote “I'm happy that three enemies died of their own volition, and smug that they died because the legal meeting was illegally broken up. If they didn't do that shit, everything would have ended just fine.
“They absolutely deserve that death, that's what happens to traitors."
Other members shared in Sanford’s bloodlust.
Everett Field (as “Red Serge”), told members who were attending that he hoped they “bashed some antifa skulls.”
A year ago, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network exposed Field, a licensed paralegal in Ontario, as a neo-Nazi who once bragged that his legal education allowed him to use racial slurs and offend people, and then blackmail them or "fist them up the ass, legally" for money.
The Law Society of Ontario opened an investigation into Field’s conduct as a result of that reporting. Despite this, Field’s current LSO directory listing describes him as having no current or past regulatory proceedings against him, and he remains in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.
Field lamented not being able to attend the rally and offered to meet up with another member, Tyler Blair (“Vittorio Giurifiglio”) to “celebrate/watch” the rally unfold.
Tyler Blair. Source: Facebook
At 2:06 PM, shortly after news broke of a white supremacist plowing his car through a crowd of counter-protestors, the then-17-year-old Blair wrote "I hope people die… Then they’ll fucking learn who they are messing with.”
Just over two hours later, Charlottesville police announced that one person had been killed, and 19 others injured in the attack.
Later that evening, Blair engaged in accelerationist rhetoric, posting “SIEGE” and “KILL YOUR MAILMAN” in the Canadian Super Players server.
While he told Canadian Anti-Hate Network last year after being exposed as a former member of the neo-Nazi terror forum Iron March, that he wanted to take the “opportunity to denounce my ridiculous, backwards and hateful views,” he currently posts white supremacist, misogynistic, and antisemitic rhetoric on Twitter.
Around the time that the bodies of 215 Indigenous children were uncovered on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, Blair took to social media to express his displeasure that “First Nations used to be loyal, but yeah, now they're ungrateful louts, who do nothing but attack their native Canadian brethren while foreigners overrun us both. They're crazy if they think P*kis and Chinese will treat them as good as Whitey has.”
Also in June, he argued with other far-right Twitter accounts about who should lead the Conservative Party of Canada, justifying not voting for Leslyn Lewis -- who is Black -- because she is (in his words) “not Canadian.”
“It is demonstrably not race idolatry to not want a foreigner ruling your country, especially one who wants to increase immigration.”
Shortly after returning to classes at McMaster University this September, he tweeted that he wanted “foreigners expelled and nature preserved.”
A few days later, he wrote that “I have read a lib book on Interwar Europe, somehow it made me like the Nazis more, how the hell was like half of Communist leadership Jewish Journalists.”
Just prior to this article being published, Blair argued on Twitter that he hated the “Catholics and Trads...brownskin mindset” of having many children, and that the solution to preventing the “replacement” of his “people” was “deportations and uh *work camps*”
Gabriel Sohier Chaput, who travelled to Charlottesville and participated in both the infamous torch march on August 11, as well as the deadly rally on August 12, is facing up to a year in prison for charges relating to the wilful promotion of hate propaganda. The charges are unrelated to Charlottesville.
As “Zeiger,” Sohier Chaput was a prolific propagandist, producing content for multiple white supremacist platforms, including core fascist literature housed in the Iron March library.
No Canadians are facing charges for their involvement in the Unite the Right attack on Charlottesville in 2017.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has reached out to Athanasse Zafirov, Vincent Bélanger-Mercure, Clayton Sanford, Everett Field, and Tyler Blair for comment. No response was received in time for publication.