Canadian Anti-Hate Network
As Adam Skelly was placed in handcuffs, a crowd of protesting supporters surged after him. At the same time, mounted and masked police officers galloped into the parking lot. With the animals’ eyes hidden under visors and draped in the trappings of law enforcement, the uniformed riders formed a wall along the building’s side entrance.
The same door had been kicked open from the inside by Skelly and his supporters minutes before, breaking brackets screwed in place to hold the entrance closed, and allowing a wave of customers to crash past a row of police and force their way into Adamson’s BBQ restaurant.
As he was being taken away, a supporter named Michael Arana, rushed to Skelly, trying to wrap his arms around the business owner. Videos show a brief scuffle breaking out between an officer and Arana, before he is arrested.
The protesters’ rage towards the police after that moment was palpable.
“We the people have been standing by your side for the last eight months,” shouted organizer Kelly Anne Wolfe, who also claimed a noise played from YouTube would spook the police horses. “How dare you stand against us.”
The crowd broke into chants of “stand down” while repeat speakers likened the officers to Nazis. One moment calling for peace and civility, while in the next warning there would be “blood in the streets.”
After the events at the BBQ ended on Thursday with the arrest of its owner, the police presence persisted and would continue to do so for the duration of the weekend. Waist-high fences were erected and the windows were boarded up.
A now dilapidated looking Adamson’s BBQ has quickly become the symbol of change in the movement’s attitude towards police.
The events began when Skelly decided days before to continue allowing table service in the west GTA location of his Texas-style BBQ restaurant, despite that the region was reentering a much more strict stage of the lockdown.
His open defiance first drew crowds of customers, then fines, and now a court date and gag order.
Authorities were on scene to change the locks early Thursday morning, but besides this action, they also can be seen removing items from within the restaurant. The move failed to slow Skelly, who also builds barbecues in a welding shop in the adjacent unit to the restaurant.
Footage taken inside the building shows drywall cleared by Skelly to breach the walls of his own business.
A turning point for the anti-mask movement
While some left with brisket, and Skelly left in handcuffs, this moment has heralded a major change in the tone of the anti-lockdown and anti-mask protests, who have always been anti-government, but generally accepting and friendly towards the police.
Outside of some business controversies, Skelly is a new and polarizing face in an anti-lockdown movement populated with the usual collection of figures from Canada's “dissident right” and fringe movements. The griller’s claims that the pandemic is a hoax and a lie drew, among others, anti-Muslim vlogger Kevin Johnston. Footage captured by CityTV shows Skelly referring to Johnston as “my friend,” as he welcomes him onto his property.
Johnson also brought Michael Arana with him, the man arrested at Adamson’s for scuffling with the police. Arana is the host of a small YouTube channel who has expressed extremely antisemitic remarks and even a desire to fight police in previous videos. He has been charged with obstruction, six counts of assault on the police, and two counts of uttering death threats.
Neo-nazi Paul Fromm was spotted in the crowd during the early days of the controversy, before the arrests. Skelly also appeared on white nationalist Leigh Stewart’s and Chris Vanderweide’s Based Media for an interview.
The notoriety bestowed to Skelly and the throngs of ideologically motivated customers that came out has seen other businesses begin to throw their names behind his cause -- the first being a gym in Scarborough. Not wanting to miss a good thing, other figures have attempted to court their own share of the controversy. Kevin Johnson is reportedly looking for a large warehouse to rent and throw a party, while Pat King, co-founder of Wexit and fixture on the United We Roll convoy, also flew out to Ontario, to speak in front of a crowd gathered in Toronto’s Dundas Square.
Cruisers and officers on bikes lined the streets during the Saturday events in Toronto, while the mention of the word police often resulted in a chorus of boos, the march that followed the speakers did not cross in front of the Toronto Police Headquarters, a stop on previous marches.
The following day in Windsor, Ontario, another protest saw a man identified as “Q” (no not the Q), reportedly being taken into custody by police due to a walking stick he was carrying. Photos from his supporters at The Line, a prominent national anti-mask group, indicate he’s likely one of a few men who have been seen dancing on top of vehicles during the group's marches through the street.
Windsor police said they would not be commenting on the matter at this time.
One leader commented that his stick is filled with essential oils, and not intended to be used as a weapon, the alleged reason police detained the man. When he refused to provide his name, he was taken into custody.
Over less than a week, a movement that has seen little more than warnings and fines has sent two people to sit in a jail cell. This is a notable shift from previous weeks where Mothers Against Distancing founder Chris “Sky” Saccoccia claimed that police refused to ticket him, and when they inevitably did, that his name being spelled wrong makes the fine invalid.
Saccoccia, who has also shown no problem palling around with hate mongers, was at Adamson’s BBQ on the day of the arrest, and remains a vocal advocate for Skelly -- the movement’s latest folk hero.
The events have also caused a shift from protests outside of Premier Doug Ford’s house to the woman whose name was written on the restaurant’s closing order, the Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto, Dr. Eileen de Villa.
King, as well as Ed Jamnisek of hate groups C3 and Northern Guard, travelled to a location believed to be de Villa’s house. Live streaming and unannounced, King claimed to be a “citizen journalist” looking for an interview. When police arrived on scene to question the occupants of the small group of cars, it was taken as another example of state-sponsored oppression.
“You guys wondered what it was like in German, pre World War 2, 1933,” King told his audience during the stream. “Welcome, you’re getting a great glimpse of it now.”
He went on to call the officers “Brown Shirts,” -- a nickname for Hitler’s Sturmabteilung, the paramilitary group that helped him rise to power.
The dichotomy that has allowed a supposedly anti-authoritarian protest movement claim that the government is using the legal system to oppress the population, yet also claimed to support the police, has proven to be one of convenience. Protesters had been welcoming the lack of any pushback from authorities, regardless of merit. Yet as police and activist tactics appear to be growing bolder, and lockdowns look to continue into the new year, the courts are set to be a proving ground for these pandemic challenges.