2,000 anti-maskers held a bizarre protest in an Ontario town this weekend
An anti-lockdown "freedom march" drew an estimated 2,000 maskless people to the sleepy town of Aylmer, Ontario, this weekend for what turned out to be one trip of an event to watch unfold.
🤡😑 #Aylmer #COVID19 #COVID19Ontario pic.twitter.com/wmPfnvV9MD— Terri 🇨🇦 (@entranced01) November 9, 2020
Previous to the rally, which kicked off around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, the Town of Aylmer had declared a formal State of Emergency citing "the potential for civil unrest and service disruptions."
Fortunately, no overt acts of violence were observed during the event — which itself was illegal under provincial government orders that prohibit social gatherings of more than 25 people outdoors.
Anti-lockdown demonstrators now walking back toward community centre after marching through downtown Aylmer pic.twitter.com/5quSSsmU7B— Dale Carruthers (@DaleatLFPress) November 7, 2020
That's not to say there wasn't some friction to be found between anti-maskers and anti-anti-maskers who showed up specifically to denounce the planned event.
No violence, but some counter-protesters have been exchanging words with the anti-mask, “Freedom March” people #Aylmer pic.twitter.com/RuSZfpk8Jk— Max Martin (@MaxatLFPress) November 7, 2020
Members of the duelling groups were seen screaming at each other and even spraying each other with water at various points along the parade route.
This is epic. Canadian hero in Aylmer, Ontario, hoses down marching #COVID19 #antimaskers as they prance by. Thanks for heads up @JReets pic.twitter.com/dJMio0f5aj— Randal Oulton (@RandalOulton) November 9, 2020
Some Alymer residents were careful to point out that the town of just 7,500 people is not united on the issue of wearing masks.
There were also people who were opposed to the anti-lockdown protests. Many told me they were embarrassed that their town was becoming known for this cause. pic.twitter.com/QU97coozZX— Kate Dubinski (@KateDubinski) November 7, 2020
The event just outside London, Ontario, the second of its kind in just a few weeks, was in fact largely populated by people who drove in from other parts of the province (including the GTA), according to local reports.
Aylmer Police Insp. Nick Novacich told a newspaper in the nearby town of St. Thomas that "no major incidents" were reported during the march.
Rally participants have made their way out of the parking lot and now plan to peacefully walk down Talbot Street in #Aylmer.— myFM News (@myFM_News941) November 7, 2020
Stayed tuned to myFM for a complete story of today’s events. pic.twitter.com/sv1ZVhVSAt
Ontario police did, however, lay several charges under the Highway Traffic Act to people who were found to be operating their vehicles in an unsafe matter.
Thousands of people are showing up. The line of cars is as far as the eye can see. END THE LOCKDOWN pic.twitter.com/zTs2BrBSlt— BannerWolf (@Banner_Wolf) November 7, 2020
There was also a minor kerfuffle, according to St. Thomas Today, involving a "group of protesters banging on the doors and windows" at a Tim Hortons outlet.
You can see footage of the latter in this YouTube clip — one of many from the event posted by anti-lockdown supporters.
Anti Lockdown Protest - LIVE From Toronto, Aylmer and Cornwall https://t.co/vugGWcz7cg via @YouTube— Linda A (@LindaA01836703) November 8, 2020
Nice turn out for Anti Lockdown Protest in Toronto, Aylmer and Cornwall Ontario
The overall vibe was weird, to say the least.
According to CBC News, the rally was organized by an "Aylmer mom" named Kimberly Neudorf with backing from the Church of God pastor Henry Hildebrandt.
At the #antimask protest in #Aylmer Ontario this weekend, Church of God Pastor Henry Hildebrant stated - and this isn't a joke - "We want to be able to smile." Sounds reasonable to me. #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/VKHTm30K6z— Rev. Michael Coren (@michaelcoren) November 9, 2020
Hildebrant was recieved at the event like a rockstar before speaking to the gathered crowds.
Church of God pastor Henry Hildebrandt arrives to a hero’s welcome at the Aylmer anti-lockdown rally. Hildebrandt, an outspoken critic of #COVID19 restrictions, will be addressing the crowd shortly pic.twitter.com/3qwQQ3uoma— Dale Carruthers (@DaleatLFPress) November 7, 2020
The controversial pastor was one of several speakers who urged attendees to keep protesting government restrictions and to abstain from wearing masks.
One man who spoke called for Ontario Premier Doug Ford to be put in jail for "child abuse" and "torture," prompting the crowd to start chanting "lock them up! lock them up!"
Omg, Aylmer. Embarrassing. https://t.co/klCZfClGoE— Tara Jeffrey (@TaraJeffrey) November 7, 2020
"The Aylmer protest brought 100s of people from COVID hotspots to town. Basically ensuring the virus will spread fast and far. So ignorant," wrote one local, denouncing the event.
"Even a hot spot like Toronto doesn't reach Aylmer's case rate, sitting at 808.9 per 100,000," wrote another, pointing to the fact that Aylmer has the highest COVID-19 case rate per capita of any surrounding community.
My Images from the anti mask rally held in Aylmer Ontario @alamy #Covid19 #NikonPhotographer pic.twitter.com/jh7SEaWrKx— Mette Holm (@iammetteholm) November 8, 2020
Others decried the actions of the anti-maskers in their own, creative ways: This person, for instance, showed up to the protest in a full clown suit with a sign that read "McDonald's burned my egg McMuffin!"
Some people had more fun than others today #Aylmer pic.twitter.com/5t3HT1A6Ys— Vasilios Bellos (@BellosVasilios) November 8, 2020
It's unlikely that this will be the last event of its kind we see in Ontario: Neudorf told the crowd gathered on Saturday that another protest will soon take place in St.Thomas.
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