A Fruitvale council member wasn’t alarmed that COVID protesters rallied at her child’s favourite park, but is more concerned with the ensuing social media attacks from the community.
Coun. Lindsay Kenny took her daughter to the park about the same time the rally moved from the downtown core to the far end of Creekside Park on Columbia Gardens Road in Fruitvale.
She could hear the messaging from the protest, but became alarmed when a man on a bike began yelling obscenities at the protesters.
“When I got down there, a guy on a bike was screaming at the top of his lungs, while my daughter was there, screaming profanities,” said Kenny.
The protesters had been asked to move from the pole yard to the public park, where they set up a microphone for speeches. Everything was audible to Kenny who was playing on the swings with her child.
“I left before the police got there, my kids were tired, and I had nothing to do with the protest,” said Kenny. “I was minding my own business, but could hear everything.”
While most of the 40 or so protesters were without masks, they appeared to be somewhat socially distanced.
According to an RCMP release, the police intervened, and politely asked the protesters to disperse, stating: “Trail RCMP would like to remind the public that anyone attending such an event could be issued a $230 fine for attending a non-compliant event under Section 4(4) of the Emergency Program Act.”
According to one attendee, the police were courteous and so were the protesters. Adding that the protest contained a number of different entities, including religious leaders who consider their work essential to the community, and are advocating for their right to provide spiritual guidance and service to Trail’s most vulnerable.
For the RCMP it’s about public safety.
“Trail and Greater District community wants to prevent our local hospital from becoming overwhelmed with new cases, which will help ensure anyone can get medical treatment and care if required,” read the release.
“Gatherings like this one can lead to the accelerated spread of COVID-19 through contact and close contact.”
For Kenny, the experience has shown the dark side of people on both sides of the ‘Great Divide’ and adversely affected her friends and family. Kenny’s presence at the park elicited a barrage of social media attacks, spreading misinformation.
“Right now everybody is angry,” said Kenny. “Everyone’s angry on this side of the great divide and everybody’s angry on that side of the divide, and now people are threatening my kids. People are threatening me.”
The right to peaceful assembly is one of Canada’s fundamental rights as is the Freedom of Conscience and Religion. The B.C. Supreme Court struck down the Public Health Order to ban outdoor protests but upheld the prohibition of in-person religious gatherings.
For Kenny, all sides need to take a deep breath and consider their actions both in public and on social media.
The Fruitvale councillor reached out to one of her online critics and had a discussion that ended in mutual understanding and compassion.
“We had a great talk, between her and I the divide is gone and there is understanding and love, and we need more of that.”
“The bullying has to stop. People want to be heard, everybody wants to be heard, and I have my ears wide open, but lets do it in a safe way, because right now it’s getting too dangerous.”
The experience has been a trying one for many people on both sides. But for all of Greater Trail, Kenny encourages understanding, support, and safety.
“It’s the community as a whole, and we all need a big hug.”