The wind didn’t howl so much as whistle though downtown Saturday afternoon, but it wasn’t the only thing making noise. Three weeks after a large protest among the pandemic skeptical in front of City Hall, about 60 people met again at 1 Carden Street to express their ongoing disgruntlement about the current state of things. In other words, it’s all going according to plan and they don’t care for it.
“If the majority of people have the same view as us, this would be over today and the people responsible for this would just be powerless,” said Vlad Kondratov, who was once again emceeing the speeches before a march. A few weeks ago, Kondratov told Guelph Politico his name was ‘Noah’ and that he was not a leader of the local COVID-skeptic movement.
“We have to set the example and do what we must until the majority is with us,” Kondratov added. “I’m sure there might be some vaccinated people here, and that’s great, we certainly know a lot of people who are, and we’re certainly not against them. Many of them said that they thought they were doing the right thing for everyone, for the health and safety of others, and to gain their freedoms back. Neither of those things happened.”
“Show me your papers,” one woman said in a vaguely German accent.
The long and the short of the protest was to express anger about the vaccination of kids, anger about the emergence of the Omicron variant, the possibility of more lockdowns, the extension of precautions like vaccine mandates, and how all of this is a doorway to tyranny and authoritarianism. Do they think COVID is real? They say yes, but they also say that it’s not as bad as we’ve been made to believe.
“As their understanding of the virus changed, we learned that it wasn’t the threat we were initially told it was,” said Curtis Maranda, a new face speaking at one of these protests. “To say that the threat of COVID has been exaggerated is a massive understatement, as the virus mutates to become more transmissible and less deadly, the ‘One More Con’ virus is fading into the background.”
“The threat is our very own government,” Maranda explained. “Fear is a paralyzing emotion, and when people are scared enough, they cannot act. They remain hypnotized by their fear as they await instructions on how to make the discomfort go away. Our mainstream government-funded propaganda has been hammering this fear into our population for almost two years with non-stop stories of overcrowded hospitals, when they’re actually taking pictures of mannequins, and now the ‘Scariants’ that are going to kill us all.”
Marc Mongrain, who calls himself an “amateur data tracker”, explained that he’s been tracking the number of COVID-19 cases in both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, and although he doesn’t trust the published numbers from Public Health Ontario, he also believes that the so-called fake numbers published by the PHO prove that the pandemic is not as severe as we’re being led to believe.
“Every time we had a weekend where the government would say, ‘We had a huge spike in cases, and it’s your fault because of house parties,’ it was because they had a 45 per cent or a 145 per cent increase in testing, and that’s what drove the spike in cases,” Mongrain said.
“For the last week or so, the fully vaccinated have outnumbered the unvaccinated in terms of new cases, and you’ll get this as a counter argument: ‘Yeah, but 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated and since the unvaxxed make up almost half of new cases, that shows how much more they transmit the disease,'” Mongrain explained. “Maybe, but my argument is there should be zero fully-vaccinated new cases, and certainly not more than half because of the mandates.”
Of course, no public health official has ever promised that being fully-vaccinated will prevent you from catching COVID-19, but that vaccines are your best defense against serious illness and death. Indeed, the Centres of Disease Control in the United States note on their page about breakthrough COVID that the vaccine is the “best way to slow the spread of COVID-19” and “vaccines protect everyone ages 5 years and older from getting infected and severely ill, and significantly reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and death.”
Of course, many in this group are as likely to trust the CDC as they are to trust a reporter, or as a couple of people noted, “fake news.” Chris, one of the people who got up to speak during the open mic portion of the process, said that people need to trust their instincts, not the so-called experts. “If you just have the unsettling feeling that something isn’t right, if you have any questions that are just not being answered, you are not alone,” he said.
“They’re constantly moving the goalposts on guidelines and lockdowns; two weeks to stop the curve, wait, maybe two months, and we’re at two years now,” Chris said. “They’re making guidelines that never make any sense, contradicting themselves, and rolling out those experimental mRNA vaccines or gene therapy on the entire world’s population with very little data to know what the side effects could be.”
Chris was not the only person at the protest to mistake the mRNA vaccines for gene therapy. “Gene therapy, in the classical sense, involves making deliberate changes to a patient’s DNA in order to treat or cure them. mRNA vaccines will not enter a cell’s nucleus that houses your DNA genome,” said Dr Adam Taylor, a virologist and research fellow at the Menzies Health Institute, Queensland, Griffith University in a fact check posted to Reuters. “There is zero risk of these vaccines integrating into our own genome or altering our genetic makeup.”
This information will likely be unpersuasive though, and even basic information from local sources was phrased in doubt. A man named John said he was compelled to speak about a personal experience and how his decision to not get vaccinated affected him on a different health issue.
“Two months ago I had a kidney transplant from a friend of mine here in Guelph, and it was delayed for two years because they needed beds for potential COVID patients when I needed a real bed. Ridiculous!” John said. “Had my surgery been one week later, I would have been denied healthcare because I am not vaccinated. That is not right. That is not the Canada that we grew up with, or that we stand for.”
John said that he was not at the protest to spread hate, but he was spreading misinformation. On the Guelph General Hospital website is says that while most visitors to the hospital need to be vaccinated, patients do not. “No one will be denied care based on their vaccination status,” said Melissa Skinner, VP Patient Services and Chief Nursing Executive in a statement in October.
This is unlikely to be persuasive to John and the people that cheered him on though. “The division that is happening is actually more dangerous, and more deadly than the COVID variant, the media-control variant, Omicron, or whatever the heck you want to call it,” John said.
The last speaker was Dave Driver, who was not at the November protest but has been a familiar face at many of these gatherings in the past year. He had his own hospital story about trying to visit his brother in the Guelph General Hospital and getting accosted by “security guards and police” who try to put him in handcuffs.
“I don’t care, I’m going to do what I need to do to fight for freedom and stop this tyranny and protect our kids and our people,” Driver said. “We started this crap by putting those ‘face diapers’ on to begin with. People don’t stand up until it gets personal, and that’s when it got personal, but a lot of us didn’t see it.”
“It’s gonna get more personal,” Driver warned.