anti lockdown protest

Anti-maskers gather for Santa-themed parade in downtown Toronto

If over the weekend you heard the echoes of holiday music blasting from the streets of Toronto or caught a glimpse of floats full of children and wondered what the heck was going on, you're not alone, seeing as anti-mask ralliers held an illegal gathering in the form of a Christmas parade.

The event took place in the downtown core on Sunday, with a march and a motorcade moving down the city's main thoroughfare and congregating at sites such as Yonge-Dundas Square.

Talk of such a procession being planned circulated back in October, though it was originally due happen on Dec. 5. This was organized by anti-mask organizations The Line Canada and Mothers Against Distancing, the latter of which has notably since deleted its former Facebook presence and repositioned then seemingly abandoned its website.

Mothers Against Distancing founder and notable pandemic restriction opponent Chris Sky — who has been known to go maskless on flights and defy federal quarantine orders — was of course in attendance, among hundreds of other citizens who danced to Christmas hits, rode on festive floats full of reindeer, and marched across the city as though the health crisis didn't exist.

"Any second now I'll be in jail..." Sky taunted alongside a video of the spectacle posted to his Twitter account.

The group, donning warm layers and Santa hats but notably without masks, appeared to have had a police escort of sorts, as is often the case with such protests.

"As demonstration is a right guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, officers attend to maintain public safety which includes the safe movement of traffic for both vehicles and pedestrians," a representative from the Toronto Police Service told blogTO about such incidents last month.

Many residents took to social media to express their disgust with the government for not charging attendees for their blatant violation of the current health and safety regulations in place amid the city's strict grey-zone lockdown.

The parade came as news broke that all of Ontario will be moving to the most extreme form of COVID-19 shutdown this week, severely limiting the function of businesses big and small, and hampering residents' holiday plans in areas that were up until this point more open than hotspot regions like Toronto and Peel.

Those who are in favour of opening the province further rather than tightening things up have been holding rallies in Toronto weekly for months now, which have attracted everyone from parents and small business owners to anti-vaxxers, "plandemic" believers and other conspiracy theorist crowds.

This is all while daily new case counts continue to rise and the government continues to take action to restrict the operations of businesses and encourage people to stay in their homes to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

Ontario has announced around 2,300 new cases each day for the last few days alongside record high testing levels and a per cent positivity of around five. The mortality rate from the communicable disease in the province currently sits at approximately 2.7 per cent, with 69 per cent of deaths in patients 80 and over.

Toronto's official Santa Claus Parade took place at Canada's Wonderland — without spectators — earlier this month and was streamed online for residents to experience from a safe distance.

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