A small group of anti-mask protestors gathered at the children’s library on the second floor of the main Guelph Public Library on Thursday afternoon. The demonstration was phrased as just a regular day at the library, but the sight of eight police officers, half-a-dozen unmasked people, and a peanut gallery of a couple of reporters was anything but ordinary. Despite the high drama, the incident was largely over after 30 minutes.
On Thursday morning, Guelph Politico was tipped off about a planned protest at the main library at 2:30 pm on Thursday. “Justin Case” posted to the “Guelph No New Normal” Facebook group saying that he was going to the library to “simply walk in and utilize their services, MASKLESS!! Who wants to join? There will be kids!”
“Case” said that his wife and kids had tried to access the library the week before but were “harassed” for not wearing masks. He also said that Thursday’s demonstration was “going to be an education session for the staff, reminding them who pays their salary.”
Once at the library though, “Case”, who’s real name is Justin Linebaugh, said he was not at the library to make any formal political statement. In conversation with police, he said that he had just come to the library to enjoy an afternoon with this two kids and they he was medically exempt from wearing a mask. Linebaugh didn’t explain why he entered the library with three other people, none of whom had kids.
One of the other protestors at the library was Dave Driver, a familiar face on the COVID protest front who has been hostile and threatening to journalists and people who disagree with this points of view that masks are “face diapers”, the vaccines are “poison”, and that COVID-19 isn’t as bad as the corrupt media propaganda thinks it is.
Driver joined Linebaugh and two others who were identified from Facebook as Dana MacDougall and Joy Garrison Schwindt. While analyzing the video later, it appeared that Breanna McGarr, another anti-mask advocate that was on the original “Case” thread, was also at the library with her daughter, but they kept their distance from the group, and the attention they brought.
At that attention was substantial. The group entered the library at around 2:30 and went straight to the children’s library on the second floor, taking a seating in the centre area. With library staff observing the whole time, the group settled in, and Linebaugh’s kids began to play. Some of the parents already in the library, all of whom were following mask guidelines, took their kids and left.
About 10 minutes after the group arrived, the police took centre stage. In all, about eight officers were on the scene as well as one security officer in a City of Guelph bylaw vehicle.
It was a bit hard to keep up with two conversations at the same time, but the main players that police dealt with were Driver and Linesbaugh. MacDougall quietly departed at some point during the police visit, while Schwindt remained relative unengaged, before leaving at the end of the interaction with police 20 minutes later.
Driver responded with hostility, and on more than one occasion loudly used a couple of different four-letter words in the children’s library. Driver was adamant about exercising his right to not wear a mask, but the police officer leading the interaction explained that just like restaurants can say “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” the library can tell you that you can’t come in without wearing a mask.
Driver disagreed and then compared being asked to wear a mask to Jewish people in Nazi Germany who were forced to where a yellow Star of David to identify themselves as Jewish. Driver then suggested that the inevitable result of mask wearing would be sending people to concentration camps, one of numerous allusions to the Holocaust that Driver made Thursday afternoon. “I don’t think that’s a very good comparison at all,” the officer said.
Driver eventually left the under protest. “You guys got a lot of balls, how the fuck do you sleep at night?” Driver said loudly in the children’s library.
Linebaugh told the officer that he had a medical exemption to wearing a mask, but repeatedly refused to show the officer his exemption.
He also complained about the media present saying that he was concerned about them filming his kids, and that he didn’t know who they were despite the members of the media identifying themselves numerous times. Again, Linebaugh posted on a public forum (Facebook), and invited people to join him at the library at a set time. Linebaugh also told officers that he was not affiliated with the other anti-mask protestors who came into the library.
After being asked several times, Linebaugh did show the officer a piece of paper that was his medical exemption to mask wearing. He apparently has asthma. The officer expressed appreciation, and then proposed to bring the library’s deputy CEO Dan Atkins over so that Linebaugh could see his exemption. Linebaugh was reticent, and didn’t want to disclose his “medical status” to a library employee. “That’s between me and my doctor,” he repeatedly said.
Eventually, Atkins did talk to Linebaugh and later confirmed to Guelph Politico that he was satisfied with the medical exemption presented. The showdown at the children’s library was over, and only one man and his two young children were allowed to continue their visit. It was the path of least resistance, but “Case” declared victory on Facebook later that night.
“[T]ypical intimidation but didn’t phase me much. We stayed and enjoyed ourselves as we normally would, but without the muzzles,” “Case”, or should we say Linebaugh, posted.