Protest against anti-Asian racism leads to confrontations at Richmond court

Anti-racism protesters rallying outside Richmond provincial court on Wednesday ended up in tense confrontations with two different people, both of which were caught on camera.

In one incident, protesters can be seen shouting at a woman entering the building. The woman then came back out, and videos of the altercation show her shouting and swinging her bag at the protesters and camera operators.

Multiple protesters have contacted CTV News Vancouver to say that the woman was a passerby. They allege that she started the confrontation by smashing protesters' signs near the street before entering the building, and became violent when the demonstrators attempted to ask why she had done so.

In the other incident, a man seen leaving the building gets into a lengthy argument with protesters while television cameras are recording.

The man tells the protesters that Chinese people brought COVID-19 to Canada, and goes on to express opposition to immigration from China.

"Do you like French food?" He asks the demonstrators. "Do you like Vietnamese food? You like all foods? You have no preferences? I have preferences. I prefer to have English or French or German than Chinese in this country."

The protesters identified themselves as members of Stop Anti-Asian Hate Crimes advocacy group, which has organized rallies against anti-Asian racism around Richmond in recent months.

Wednesday's gathering was the second the group has held outside the city's courthouse during court appearances by people charged with mischief in an incident at a coffee shop in the city in March.

Police were called to Rocanini Coffee Roasters in the city's Steveston neighbourhood after the manager reported an alleged assault on March 29, according to Richmond RCMP.

Staff said two customers came in, ignored COVID-19 protocols and then became agitated after being asked to move tables. Surveillance video captured drinks being poured on the floor and an object being thrown as a couple was leaving the coffee shop.

Authorities were told racial slurs were uttered during the incident as well.

Ivan Pak, a spokesperson for the Stop Anti-Asian Hate Crimes group, told reporters Wednesday's gathering was intended to send a message that there's no place for hate and racism in Richmond.

"It's a very important message to the community, that hate-crime-related incidents have consequences," Pak said.

While neither the man nor the woman who confronted protesters on Wednesday said their name on camera, the man appears to reference the Rocanini incident during his shouting match with the protesters.

"We took some coffee and we threw it on the floor," he says. "That's our crime … That's got nothing to do with Chinese. That's not racist."

When protesters shout back their allegations of racist remarks made during the incident, the man responds by arguing that his expressed "preference" for non-Chinese people is part of his right to freedom of expression.

"We're not in China," he says. "This is Canada. We have free speech. If we don't like Chinese, we can say it. And I don't like Chinese. And I say it."

Astrid Maria Secreve and Michel Jean-Jacque Berthiaume are each charged with one count of mischief in connection to the March incident in Steveston.

Richmond RCMP initially recommended a mischief charge against one suspect at the beginning of May, prompting outcry from the Stop Anti-Asian Hate Crimes advocacy group.

The group launched an online petition calling for additional charges of inciting hatred and assault in connection with the incident. No such charges have been laid.