“I am here to defend freedom. The freedom not to let the government overreact, the freedom to meet with those we love, the freedom to go where we want to go, ”said Herma Van Meppelen Scheppink, who was from nearby St. Thomas. Ont., To show support.
The event came on the same day that Ontario reported a new one-day record of 1,132 COVID-19 cases.
With a population of 7,500, the city of Aylmer is pop. 7,500, has the highest case rate of any surrounding communities and the highest in its health region, even though Southwestern Public Health includes two counties and two major cities. Public health officials in the region and surrounding areas called the gathering dangerous, saying the combination of a large crowd not wearing masks could be disastrous for the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 .
The rally was hosted by Kimberly Neudorf, an Aylmer mother with the support of controversial Church of God pastor Henry Hildebrandt, who has fought against public health measures and the closure of her church from the start of the pandemic.
“I am here to express my opposition to a tyrannical government. I want to show my support for this community. People are here for the masks, I am here for the freedom, ”said Catherine Carter, from Windsor, Ont. traveled to Ottawa for similar gatherings.
“I have seen this movement grow over the past six months. The louder people are, the better people will hear us. “
When news of the protest and that of other towns spread to Aylmer, the mayor declared a state of emergency, freeing up more resources for the police.
Aylmer and Ontario Provincial Police officers stood by during the rally at the East Elgin Community Complex and the ensuing march through town.
Those who support public health measures in the city held their own small rally in the morning, and some marched around the streets watching protesters go by.
” It’s at my house. The majority of Aylmer adhere to the mask requirements, but we have this small group of people who bring in hundreds and hundreds of people from outside the community, encouraging them to shop in our stores, ”said Anastasia Gelinas. . “And the virus will surely spread, and they don’t care. “
“They are sowing terror in this community. I’m worried about the city and the businesses in the city. Some have quit their jobs because there are so many people entering without a mask. I’m embarrassed. The city, the vast majority, is not like that. ”
Mike Moore stood in the middle of the large number of protesters holding a sign that read “Protect your neighbors, wear a mask!”
“I believe we are in a pandemic with the coronavirus and we need to take it seriously. The government mandated masks for a reason, ”he said. ” I’m embarrassed. I have never seen anything like it here in this quiet community. “