This weekend, a group of bikers called “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” will be protesting in the nation’s capital for restoring “fundamental rights and freedoms” as part of a campaign dedicated to the “end of all tyrannical bills and legislation.” More locally, Guelph organizers are planning a town hall called “Shifting Perspectives: The Erosion of Human Rights.” Sounds interesting, right? However it sounds, this, and the biker rally, are both about the same things: conspiracy theories and COVID misinformation.
“Some feel that ‘we have dealt with this pandemic, what more can be said? Many people’s lives are still greatly affected by the events of the last two years,” reads a statement on the webpage for the town hall. “Many would like to see us moving in a direction that is more sustainable, equitable and considerate of each other.”
That doesn’t sound so bad, so let’s look at the guest list.
There’s a Dr. Byram Bridle, the University of Guelph professor who’s become the go-to immunologist for the vaccine hesitant, and has frequently been cited for his objections to vaccine mandates, including a false assertion that the COVID-19 vaccines contain toxins.
Second billing goes to Dr. Paul E. Alexander, who was an advisor to the U.S. Health and Human Services as part of the Trump Administration, where he advocated for a strategy of herd immunity and worked with his boss Michael Caputo to muzzle scientists and public health officials trying to share scientific, data driven information.
Next is Dr. Julie Ponesse, an ethics professor from Western University who wrote a whole book about refusing to take the COVID vaccine. Arthur Caplan, the founding director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Centre, told the Toronto Star that “I wouldn’t pass her in my ethics class.”
Then there’s Dr. Bonnie A Mallard, another U of G immunologist whose areas of interest, as stated on the Dairy Farmers of Canada website, are “Genetic regulation of the immune system and implications to disease resistance. Methods to improve disease resistance of livestock, such as genetic selection of livestock for enhanced immune responsiveness.”
Also Dr. Jennifer Hibberd, a dental surgeon from Toronto who appeared in a Rumble video with other doctors touting the non-existent benefits of using Ivermectin to treat COVID-19.
“Our panel of experts has a vast amount of knowledge and personal experience with the government mandates, Covid 19 vaccine research, treatments, and the social impact of the pandemic,” the town hall website says.
The venue for “Shifting Perspectives” is the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Kitchener, but that wasn’t the original location. As you will note from the screen grabs below, the event was originally going to be held at the Harcourt United Church on Dean Avenue here in Guelph. Sources have told Guelph Politico that the church moved quickly to cancel the booking once the event started to be promoted earlier this month.
Despite the move to Kitchener, the town hall’s website is still filled with iconic Guelph photography. In terms of how interested Guelphites without a vehicle are meant to get to Kitchener, there’s a note about how organizers are “considering” the rental of a bus for a “minimal charge” but there’s no firm commitment just three days before the event. Having said that, the event will apparently be live-streamed online.
This will be first local gathering of people opposed to vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 protective measures since March 21, when over 100 people gathered in front of city hall and then marched around downtown and down Gordon Street (pictured above).
The town hall takes places this Saturday, April 30, at 2 pm.
As for Rolling Thunder, they’re claiming in their declaration that there were clear attempts by “provocateurs, saboteurs and embellishers to tarnish the peaceful and loving movement” that was the Freedom Convoy earlier this year, which is why they’re trying to take it back with this redo that pay honour to the National War Memorial.
Still, one of the groups align with Rolling Thunder is Veterans 4 Freedom, whose steering committee is led by Tom Marazzo, a former member of the Canadian Forces who was a spokesperson for the Freedom Convoy. Also not helping the appearance that Rolling Thunder wants to convey is an event in Ottawa on Saturday with Chris Saccoccia, aka: Chris Sky.
Sky is conspiracy theorist, anti-vaxxer, and Holocaust denier who’s previous comments also entered the realm of anti-Black racism, Islamophobia and homophobia. He’s currently facing a number of legal actions including trespassing at West Edmonton Mall, issuing death threats against Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and organizing protests were he encouraged his supporters to drive slowly around airports and blocking traffic.
Although Sky’s rally is listed on a schedule provided to the Rolling Thunder webpage, organizer Neil Sheard said in a video Wednesday that Rolling Thunder has nothing to do with whatever Sky is doing in Ottawa this weekend. “Our event is all about the monument, it’s all about the veterans, it’s all about the bikes,” Sheard said.