Demonstrators gather in Waterloo Town Square for anti-mask “freedom rally”

Photo by Eva Ou

An anti-lockdown “freedom rally” took place in Waterloo Town Square on Saturday afternoon, despite the rally reportedly being moved to Dundas Square in Toronto.

By mid-afternoon, approximately two dozen people were reported to have gathered uptown to protest the provincial COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. 

The rally was a cause for concern for many businesses uptown, who were taking precautions in the case that they would be targeted by protestors. 

Zero Waste Bulk, a sustainable grocery store in uptown Waterloo, warned customers from visiting their store on Saturday, stating that they might have been named on a “supposed hit list” by protestors because of their compliance with mask mandates. 

“We’re not 100% sure what will happen on Saturday, but we’d rather be safe with precautions and warning others to be vigilant than sorry!” the statement posted on Instagram read

Most protestors in attendance were not wearing masks or physically distancing between one another, but the protest has largely been reported as peaceful. The Waterloo Regional Police who were on hand have not reported any major incidents. 

Some protestors were wielding signs that voiced their outrage with COVID-19 restrictions, some of which read, “Please seek the truth,” “I’m not killing you by breathing” and “no more lockdowns … no mandatory vaccines.” 

Another sign read, “my body, my choice,” a slogan which is generally associated with feminist movements. 

The crowd—which was dispersed around the skating rink and along King Street—was predominantly middle-aged, with some families with children in attendance. 

One protestor yelled criticisms of the government and Prime Minister Trudeau and warned against a “reset,” drawing on a conspiracy theory that claims that the pandemic is a cover for world governments to restructure and enact a “New World Order.”

“I’m protesting that my government is lying to the citizens of my nation about the risk factor involved with contracting the virus,” protestor Shannon Charlebois said. 

“I’m protesting people [that] comply without seeking the truth. I’m all for masks; if you want to wear a mask, that’s great. If you’ve looked at data that tells you that a piece of material is going to save your life, then you’re entitled to that opinion,” Charlebois added. 

Public Health lists mask-wearing as a practice “that can help to prevent the infectious respiratory droplets of an unknowingly infected person from coming into contact with other people outside the home.”

Waterloo Region is currently under red “prevent” restrictions. According to Public Health, the region has surpassed 500 active COVID-19 cases. 

The region reported 554 active cases on Monday, Nov. 30—the highest number since the start of the pandemic in March.

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