VIDEO: Hundreds of protesters drown out anti-SOGI speakers in Victoria

A protestor holds a sign outside the Windsor Pavilion Thursday night. More than 200 showed up to counter the evening’s anti-SOGI program, the Erosion of Freedom. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Judith Quinlan is new to Victoria, but said she came to the event to show her support for the trans and LGBTQ+ community here. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Protestors took over the Erosion of Freedom event at the Windsor Pavilion event, drowning out the speakers with chanting, songs, bells and more. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Ryan Painter addressed the crowd gathered outside the Windsor Pavilion Thursday night. He organized the counter protest in hopes of “creating a space of inclusion and a space of hope.” (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds rallied against the anti-SOGI program taking place inside the Windsor Pavilion Thursday night. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Between 200-300 protestors showed up to counter an anti-SOGI event in Oak Bay Thursday night. People chanted, sang and waved LGBTQ+ and transgender pride flags outside the Windsor Pavilion as the event went ahead. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

A little girl in a rainbow-patterned dress skipped through the crowd in a Greater Victoria park Thursday night as more than 200 people chanted, “SOGI saves lives” at the group gathered inside a building.

There might have been picnics, dance music, glitter, face paint and bubbles blowing through the wind, but the crowd wasn’t there to celebrate – they were there to protest the The Erosion of Freedom event, hosted by speaker Jenn Smith, who speaks against the SOGI 123 (sexual orientation and gender identity) resources taught in B.C. schools. Oak Bay, a suburb of Victoria, was the event’s final Vancouver Island stop after hosting in Campbell River, Duncan and Nanaimo.

But since it was announced, the event had been a source of controversy in the community – both towards organizers and the District of Oak Bay, which received backlash for allowing it to go ahead in one its community spaces.

Protest movements cropped up online to counter the evening’s program, including a protest created by Greater Victoria School District trustee Ryan Painter that drew hundreds to the Windsor Pavilion.

“What was coming here to Victoria was something that was not safe, and it was creating a lot of fear,” Painter said. “And I wanted to create a space of love, a space of inclusion and a space of hope, which is what we’ve done here tonight.”

Alex Farquhar, Ashley Moledzki and her wife Natalie sat in camp chairs, holding signs that said, “Trans rights are human rights” and “SOGI is the water that helps people bloom.”

The trio had come out from Langford to protest the event.

“SOGI was something we all needed earlier in life,” said Farquhar. “Honestly if I’d had SOGI 123 I probably wouldn’t have tried to commit suicide.

[Kids] should never have to feel the way we did. If we can make it better for them, then damn right we should.”

READ ALSO: Anti-SOGI 123 speech in Oak Bay won’t be cancelled

READ ALSO: Counter protests crop up in response to tonight’s anti-SOGI event in Oak Bay

Still, the Pavilion was heavy with undercurrents of frustration and anger which eventually bubbled over in the form of tearful and often heated confrontations between event attendees and protesters.

And while the Erosion of Freedom talk went ahead inside a small, hot, upstairs room inside the Windsor Pavilion, the speakers could hardly be heard over the chants, songs and whistles of the protesters filling the room and the field below.

“People like her are the reason my best friend is dead,” shouted one woman, gesturing to Jenn Smith, holding a microphone at the front of the room.

Attendees and organizers railed back at protesters, claiming their right to freedom of speech was under attack.

Attendee Dave Moores said he came “in support of free speech” but that it was too loud to hear anything.

“There was cowbells, fire alarms, a lot of shouting, there was a lot of noise… in an attempt to silence the speaker and not have civil dialogue,” he said.

Moores said he had come to the event for educational reasons.

“I wanted to see what was being spoken about, I wanted to see what the topic of discussion was. I kind of had a summary of what was going to be spoken about, but I didn’t know exactly,” he said, adding that he was not surprised by the protest presence at the venue.

Inside the building, tensions continued to escalate until a fire alarm was pulled. Once the Oak Bay Police and the Oak Bay Fire Department arrived, the building was evacuated and the event was officially over.

For his part, Painter felt the evening was a successful show of support for SOGI 123 and the LGBTQ+ community.

“There were so many people here tonight,” he said. “It shows that the South Island, we’re not about hate. We’re all about love.”

READ ALSO: Oak Bay residents concerned about anti-SOGI event at Windsor Park



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Update: Washed out South Okanagan road temporarily closed for assessment

A portion of Eastside Road, south of Penticton, appears to be crumbling into Skaha Lake

‘It takes a very strong individual’

Lynn Loeppky talks working at the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter

Tool and camping gear lending library to open in Revelstoke

Samantha Wex Special to the Review The North Columbia Environmental Society is… Continue reading

Two senior City of Revelstoke staff on paid leave

The City of Revelstoke’s Chief Administrative Officer, Allan Chabot and the city’s… Continue reading

Falkland ropes in final day of stampede

101st annual event went off without a hitch over May long weekend

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Woman in hospital after being thrown off horse

She was airlifted to Kelowna General Hospital from Okanagan Falls

Okanagan art gallery releases their theme

Fine arts painting will be the point of focus for this year’s event

South Okanagan search and rescue help injured climber

Search and rescue called on the assistance of a helicopter to help retrieve an injured hiker

Marriage proposal on the big screen at Enderby drive-in

Kelowna man gets engaged in front of hundreds to Vernon sweetheart

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

North Okanagan tattoo fundraiser draws record support

Lineup around the block for start and beginning of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Firefighters respond to bus fire on Highway 1

Smoke in coach bus reported to have been caused by overheating, driver and passengers safe

Most Read