Canadian Anti-Hate Network
After the City of Toronto announced that it would be administering over 2,500 vaccines inside city hall on Sunday, lines wound through downtown’s Nathan Phillips Square courtyard. Vaccine hopefuls who arrived at the municipal centre enjoyed free ice cream cones while they waited. They were then met by a collection of protestors, many upset that the clinic was reportedly offering the shot to children.
The demonstrators were a small and somewhat diverse crowd, but those watching from the racist and far-right spaces have been cheering the disruptions on. Worse still, the idea of targeting schools and vaccine clinics is becoming the strategy du jour for the conspiracy-based anti-lockdown movement.
Ahead of the event, calls had gone out online for a protest to disrupt, initially through creating fake and repeated vaccine appointment bookings in order to slow down distribution. However, anti-vaccine activists then began to call for supporters to show up in person and disrupt free clinics.
The group protesting on Sunday was “small but vocal,” according to the Toronto Sun. Three participants were arrested on the day, but released immediately after. One was charged with common nuisance, and another with failing to comply with an undertaking. A third man was also reportedly arrested, but only given a ticket.
Since the day, multiple videos have surfaced showing members of the protest filming and asking people in the line questions. One individual took the opportunity to offer her commentary on the race of people in the “slaughter lineup.”
“Look, Black people, they still want to be enslaved,” said one woman, pointing her camera at a Black couple standing in line. “They have a chance now and they still want those shackles around their ankles and their mind.”
“Of course Asians would line up,” she remarked about others.
Leigh Stuart, a white nationalist, anti-immigration vlogger once ousted from the PPC for her overtly alt-right views, took to Twitter to question the rollout and mocking the clinic’s choice to hand out ice cream.
“In what pandemic do you have to bribe kids (who don’t need parental consent) with ice cream to encourage vaccination?” she wrote.
An Emerging Trend Of Targeting Clinics
Targeting clinics is a simple but new tactic for the Canadian anti-lockdown movement, one that is quickly picking up steam. In Toronto on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, school pop-up clinics are drawing a crowd of similarly-minded demonstrators.
At time of writing, Ontario public elementary and secondary schools are currently closed for in-person learning, but clinics are offering vaccines to children aged 12 and older. The age threshold, and that students will not require parental permission provided they are able to go through an informed consent process, appears to be the inciting incident for the new clinic-based protests.
On Tuesday, a crowd of a few dozen protesters gathered outside of Taylor Creek Public School. Among the attendees were those distributing copies of a printed “notice of liability” for vaccine administrators to sign. These appear to be copies taken from Vaccine Choice Canada’s website, with a small paragraph added to make the document “foolproof.”
Michael Garron Hospital announced plans to use Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute to distribute vaccines to people living in the area and working in COVID-19 hotspots on May 26. It immediately drew a response.
“Stop the tyranny,” wrote Juma Williams, who currently works under the name “Impenetrebel” selling clothing, and promoted some of the protests outside the clinics. Naming the school, he called for others to join him for the “peaceful fight” against “pop-up vaxx clinics,” adding that he was “calling all Scarborough and east end parents who don’t want to see any kids being test trials.”
On Wednesday he managed to attract around 10 or 11 participants. The group offered free ice cream from a cooler -- a parody of the same service offered the weekend before outside the Toronto city hall vaccination clinic. On Sunday, demonstrators claimed that free ice cream was a manipulative tactic to coerce kids into agreeing to the vaccine.
Ignoring requests to leave the school parking lot, and at one point, getting into a shouting match over the use of the word “participants” by staff, the group handed out flyers to participants including “10 Reasons Not To Get The Vaccine.” One participant lectured a man walking to the clinic with his children that his daughter would become infertile if she took the shot.
When police arrived, the group dispersed. Thursday saw two more actions outside of school clinics.
Williams made statements earlier this month to his Facebook profile about how he felt about racism and the role of racialized people in the lockdown movement.
“Being in this Freedom Movement, I’ve seen many ‘fake welcoming people’ (especially politicians) and freedom groups so happy to see an African-Canadian and other cultural people whom speak out,” he wrote. “I’ve witnessed how quickly they rush over to me/others. Thinking they can use me or other ethnic people in the ‘optics’ to look good for them in regards to eliminate ‘white racism and supremacy’ and still don’t address any of the discrimination issues in the multicultural, voiceless communities that been overlooked for years. Yet, have the nerve to still want ‘us’ cultural people to support them.”
Despite this disavowal of racist bad actors, Williams has continued to tag known hate promoters in posts, like Chris Saccoccia and Ed Jamnisek.
Chris Saccoccia has a history of sharing anti-Black racism and Holocaust denial on social media. Ed Jamnisek is a member of the anti-Muslim hate group Northern Guard and was involved in the targeted harassment of a Muslim-owned business in Toronto.
Since the actions outside of clinics began, the move has been welcomed by members of both the far-right, anti-lockdown groups, and the many intersections in between.
Ed Jamnisek live streamed the event to Kevin Johnston’s social channels.
When asked about his relationship and interactions with both Jamnisek and Saccoccia, the Impenetrebel brand account responded to say that he "deals with people directly, not information from someone or somewhere else. He maintains that from Saccoccia "no racism is shown on Chris’ part towards Juma or others I know." The account also credits Jamnisek with helping set up audio for some of Williams' events.
Ruddi Bruce, a member of the persistent Yellow Vest Movement and speaker at multiple Alberta anti-lockdown protests, shared the footage from Nathan Phillips Square, just one of over a thousand. While Bruce runs his own stream that includes a variety of angry takes on everything from politicians to Islam -- a pet issue of his.
One poster included the comment “It’s time to fulfill the promise we made to those who lie in Flanders Fields, and kill all communists abroad and home,” when he shared the video to his personal Facebook account.
While in Ontario, school closures mean that the amount of children impacted by the protests is drastically reduced, similar tactics are being utilized as vaccines continue to roll out.
In British Columbia, Odessa Orlewicz -- who has faced criticism for antisemitic remarks in the past -- is a regular organizer and attendee of the province’s anti-lockdown protests and host of Liberty Talk Canada, where she has promoted QAnon. Orlewicz, leading a protest outside the Vancouver School Board largely focused on the fact that children are now receiving the vaccine, streamed to the Facebook account for Druthers, an Ontario-based digital and newsprint publication that has become a regular part of the movement. Druthers has previously been connected to groups like Vaccine Choice Canada, regularly is home to a variety of conspiracy theories, and is the preferred media outlet of the now over a year old movement.
This story was updated to reflect that Juma Williams is currently the owner of a clothing company and to include his statement.