Participants listened to speeches decrying what they called censorship, as well as “lockouts” and mask warrants, and expressed fears that a COVID-19 vaccine would be made mandatory.
Anti-mask protesters disrupt BC ferry ahead of Vancouver ‘freedom rally’
While masks are mandatory on ferries, transit, and some private businesses, British Columbia has no public mask mandate. Provincial health administrator, Dr. Bonnie Henry, opposes the idea of a mandatory vaccine.
British Columbia has also never implemented a “lockdown”.
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While most businesses and services have implemented COVID-19 protocols and mass gatherings have been limited, even at the height of the pandemic in March and April, only restaurants, bars and businesses in personal services such as salons were closed by public health. ordered.
British Columbians opposed to wearing masks protest in Vancouver
Vladisav Sobolev, founder of the “hugs over masks” group, told Global News that the event provided a forum for like-minded people to come together and have an “alternative perspective to mainstream media”.
“Unfortunately, at this point, the brainwashed fear and propaganda has been created in the past seven months,” he said.
This was a view shared by many in the crowd, with many at the event shouting “fake news” to Global News staff.
Many in the crowd espoused debunking myths that wearing a mask is harmful because it causes a person to breathe carbon dioxide or bacteria or causes cancer.
Myths about masks, demystified: no, wearing a mask will not “shut down” your immune system
Doctors say there is no evidence to back up these claims.
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Public health officials broadly agree that non-medical masks are an important tool in stopping the spread of COVID-19, though they say physical distancing and hand washing remain the tactics the most effective.
British Columbia Libertarian Party Chairman Donald Wilson told Global News he was at the rally because he felt the hospitalization and death rate did not justify the restrictions on the public.
Claims that break the myths about face masks
“It doesn’t seem like rational fear to me anymore,” he says. “I see people don’t spend time with their families, they don’t spend time with loved ones in the hospital… not to mention all the jobs that have been lost as well.
Flags and signs supporting QAnon’s baseless conspiracy theory – which the FBI has called a threat of national terrorism – or making unsubstantiated claims about 5G radiation or Bill Gates were also present, although in number less than a similar rally in September.
READ MORE: QAnon conspiracy theorists and far-right group join Vancouver anti-mask rally
Speakers announced for the event included a long list of controversial anti-vaccine activists, as well as conspiracy theorist David Icke.
Icke has been accused of anti-Semitism and is best known for once declaring that he was the son of God, and his conspiracy theory that a secret cabal of reptilian humanoids rule the world.
Vancouver City Councilor Pete Fry called the event “disappointing” but not surprising given the rise of conspiracy theories and populism in North America.
“We are in a very scary time, a very uncertain time, and people are looking for all kinds of options and alternatives. It is not necessarily useful and it creates a greater risk for the general public, ”he said.
Breaking the myths of the COVID-19 mask
“I am very worried about our front line workers who have no choice in this matter, and I am obviously also concerned about the people who attend this rally. I wouldn’t want them to get sick, but maybe they do.
Ahead of Saturday’s rally, BC Ferries was forced to delay unloading its 8:30 a.m. navigation between Nanaimo and Horseshoe Bay after it said a number of anti-mask protesters heading to the Lower Mainland had turned belligerent and verbally aggressive towards other passengers.
The company said at least 12 people were banned from using the ferry service for a day.
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