Vancouver's Anti-Lockdown Protestors Give A Big "F*** You" To Healthcare Workers
BC is starting to open up, but these demonstrations will continue
Special to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network
May 27, 2020
Police and security prevent anti-lockdown protestors from confronting healthcare workers outside St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. May 10, 2020. Source: Facebook.
“Let’s go take a pit stop at St. Paul’s so we can talk to the doctors!”
Marco Pietro is a COVID-19 denier. He thinks nobody in Italy has actually died from it, and the deaths that have been recorded are being wrongfully attributed. He also espouses germ theory denialism, thinking COVID-19 and other viruses do not actually spread through physical contact or the air. In a video stream he says “fuck you” to frontline workers who he believes are covering up a giant hoax, saying they are “greedy fucks” and “glory hogs.”
On Sunday May 10th, Pietro and his megaphone led a group of over one hundred anti-lockdown protestors down the streets of Vancouver, paying a visit to St. Paul’s Hospital. The protestors gathered outside the ambulance entryway to yell chants at hospital workers that echoed these conspiracist views, shouting at the workers and security standing outside: “do the right thing,” “let us in,” and “what are you hiding!?” Organizers believed the fact that some nurses were outside at that moment was further evidence that the pandemic was a scam, while participants made other hostile accusations towards the workers.
Pietro is just one co-organizer among several in Vancouver’s anti-lockdown movement. He calls himself a spokesperson and his name is on posters. Yet as abhorrent and ignorant as his views may be, he just represents the tip of the iceberg as to how ugly these protests are.
The anti-lockdown protests in Vancouver, officially known as No More Lockdowns, have been going on for over a month now. Early on, I and others publicized the role neo-Nazi Brian Ruhe had in helping organize them from the beginning, first by using his e-mail list to advertise the event and invite his conspiracy theorist friends, then as part of their “executive committee,” which he has been allowed to remain on despite being a well known neo-Nazi.
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One would hope removing a neo-Nazi from their executive committee would be an easy decision, even for a group as wrong-headed in their mission as this one, but in looking at some of the other members and leaders it becomes easier to see why they are so comfortable with keeping Brian Ruhe on. Bob Wiles, a lead marshal for the protests who helps conduct their marches with the police, and a moderator of the No More Lockdowns Facebook group says in Ruhe’s defence that Hitler “was at least doing the best for his country unlike the current Crime Minister of Canada."
Raoul Taylor van Haastert, another moderator of their Facebook group who is planning a protest against 5G on June 6th, has also espoused anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, denouncing the “Zionist controlled media” and stating that “our WW2 history is such a big lie.”
Another member of the executive committee, Lynn Allard, has also written articles for the white supremacist website Council of European Canadians accusing LGBTQ+ activists of antagonizing the residents of Chilliwack merely by making rainbow crosswalks. In one interview filmed from the protests she praised Hungary’s government, which used the COVID-19 pandemic to grant itself dictatorial powers and immediately revoked transgender rights, as a “leader of freedom in the world.”
As with the anti-lockdown movement in other cities, No More Lockdowns has created an alliance of conspiracy theorists, alternative medicine quacks, and far-right nationalist figures. All believe, to varying degrees, that the COVID-19 pandemic is either wildly exaggerated or a complete hoax made to enrich the pharmaceutical industry, hurt Donald Trump’s electoral chances, or eradicate national sovereignty to build a New World Order global government. Not every person involved in them is far-right, but for as long as they are allowed space, they will be able to network with others and promote their worldviews and material to other participants.
Brian Ruhe is only the easiest example illustrating this problem. In his videos recorded of the protests he can be seen sharing his beliefs that there is a Rothschild-Talmudic-Zionist-Communist conspiracy to control the world and hide the truth about Adolf Hitler, in addition to his views on black crime and other racial topics. He gives out his business card advertising his YouTube and BitChute channels where he has more videos on these themes. In watching several hours worth of video footage from these demonstrations, I have only seen people push back against Ruhe’s beliefs once, to which the main Vancouver organizer Susan Standfield told the people to take up their issue on the Facebook page.
Ruhe is not the only far-right nationalist trying to spread his message at these protests. Some of the most visible are the few Yellow Vest protestors getting involved, one of whom has warnings of “ethnocide” written in marker across the back of his vest. Others are not immediately visible but are still there. In one speech at May 3rd’s rally, Northern Guard member Glen Dumont tried to recruit for the anti-refugee group and the Islamophobic III% militia. Off-camera he can be heard promoting the group’s activities to others, and other protestors have made negative comments about Muslims as well. A couple of other protestors have also made remarks against Asians, going beyond criticisms of the Peoples’ Republic of China. Marco Pietro, who has no known previous association with far-right groups, claimed without evidence that economic assistance for temporary foreign workers was going towards the Chinese military.
Homophobia and transphobia have also come up in No More Lockdowns repeatedly. Several protestors have stated they were opposed to kids receiving education about sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI). Others also mocked notions that people can be outside the gender binary, using it as an example of why scientific and educational authorities are not to be trusted. One has even attacked Melinda Gates by questioning if she is transgender. A popular livestreamer who has been active at these protests is two-time Peoples’ Party of Canada candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, who regularly speaks to participants about her involvement in anti-LGBTQ+ causes.
A somewhat surprising prejudice that is central to the anti-lockdown protestors, inherited from the anti-vaccine movement, is against people with autistic spectrum disorders. Based on the pseudo-scientific belief that vaccinations can cause autism, protestors speak in horror about children with autism as if they are only capable of living a miserable existence and may have been better off getting sick. As autism activists have argued, simply dismissing these views as pseudo-scientific leaves their ableist assumptions unaccounted for. These fears also play into conspiracy theories: that vaccines are being used as a globalist plot to depopulate the human race. One protestor in Edmonton who was fined by police was telling them that vaccines exist to depopulate the white race.
Early on, the protestors in Vancouver were appreciative of police efforts to accommodate them. They expressed gratitude for the Vancouver Police Department escorting them repeatedly, claiming police supplied more for them than they even asked. They believed police were supportive of their message by doing so. They used images of police riding motorcycles beside them as promotional images for their protests. And to a large extent, organizers are still appreciative of the police, saying they will continue to alert them of all their protests in advance.
But this relationship has gone through bumps and is not completely assured. While Vancouver Police were initially more concerned with the few counter-protestors who would come out to oppose them, in recent demonstrations they have had to hold back protestors from harassing people in the street. One protestor in particular, Mak Parhar, a flat earth advocate who refers to the Holocaust as “six million lies,” was said to have been monitored by police during the April 26th protest. Additionally, some blamed police for failing to protect protestors after conspiracy theorist videographer Dan Dicks was allegedly hit in the back of the head with a bottle. Marco Pietro, who at a previous protest rally praised the VPD for several minutes on his livestreams, said he would no longer say anything positive about the VPD after that. However, he thanked the VPD again at a demonstration on May 17th. On Facebook, participants share news and videos of police from Edmonton and Fredericton giving protestors fines or being stopped.
The mistrust some have of police is not just due to a few incidents. Some worry that in a hypothetical future when vaccinations or microchips are mandatory, the police will be on the side of those enforcing them. Many protestors express anti-government ideologies, including pseudo-constitutional theories popular in some “patriot” circles that Canada is not really a sovereign country, or those professed in organized pseudolegal commercial arguments. A lot of protestors support conspiracy theories associated with QAnon, such as that Justin Trudeau is part of a Satanic pedophile cabal that will be taken down in a Trump-endorsed coup d’état. A number of QAnon posters have been seen at these protests, and even some of the co-organizers are believers.
The main Vancouver organizer, Susan Standfield, has tried to emphasize that they want the protests to stay peaceful, telling protestors to ignore any passersby who mock them. But some of the protestors have a hard time listening, and go up to their hecklers anyway, risking the chance of escalations into fights. In livestreams, some women have said they would not bring their children to the protests anymore because of what has happened at past protests. This is an obstacle for Standfield who, using the logic of an advertiser, said she wants their movement to be a movement of mothers. She called off the plans she had for a “children’s march” as a result. Protestors are also getting more hostile to their opponents, putting photos on Facebook of the license plates of drivers who flipped them off.
Standfield and her co-organizers have plans to keep these protests going throughout the summer, calling for a “Summer of Freedom.” even as BC’s provincial government says it plans to open up. As Press Progress has noted, these protests aren’t just about the lockdowns, many of the conspiracy theories they adhere to will remain issues for them as long as the COVID-19 pandemic and possible remedies for it remain in the news. Standfield has acknowledged as much at a previous demonstration, saying “it’s not just about the economy” and that she would help people organize “on any issue that’s important to you, 5G, vaccines, legislation, guns I guess.” For this reason, Standfield is trying to rebrand No More Lockdowns as a “Human Rights Movement.”
Another protestor also expressed displeasure with the protests’ “back to work” rhetoric, saying that would just leave them as slaves. "That's just the only way we can get on their level. They don't see themselves as slaves, so they don't get it. If you tell them to get back to work to make some money, I don't know, do you even care? Probably not," replied Chris Verolli, a conspiracy theorist vlogger and moderator of the No More Lockdowns Facebook group. There is no indication that this is a movement of the economically desperate, protestors regularly mock people who rely on CERB or other programs as sheep becoming reliant on a tyrannical government that will enslave them.
The Vancouver movement has its own unique attributes, but while larger and better organized it is not too different from those in other cities. Free North Patriots, a shady group helping to network and organize anti-lockdown protests across the country, has promoted No More Lockdowns’ protests. Protestors in Vancouver have also partaken in and organized protests in Surrey, Chilliwack, and Abbotsford, and Vancouver organizers say they are in contact with people from other cities as well.
While the previous protests did not continue an earlier pattern of growth that they had hoped for, and hopes that they will reach 1,000 protestors may be unrealistic, they still have plans to look forward to for the summer. No More Lockdowns wants to protest against specific politicians; they previously protested outside Adrian Dix’s constituency office, they’ve said they would like to protest against Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth's house, and at a previous march a participant made note to point out the office of Spencer Chandra Herbert, a Vancouver-West End MLA who previously denounced the protests. Some of their plans are more mundane, but nonetheless ambitious, one of the more noteworthy being Standfield's hopes to do a class action lawsuit against the province for economic damages. The bad combination of scientific illiteracy, bigotry, and strange conspiracy theories may limit the reach of their audience, but nonetheless they will remain a headache for healthcare workers, the groups of people they target, and those of us who just want to keep ourselves and others safe.
Which brings us to last weekend, May 23-24.
Standfield's attempt to turn No More Lockdowns / Human Rights Movement (as it is now officially calling itself) into a movement of moms has not been fruitful. Her most recent rally in Kitsilano Beach, intended to attract more mothers, had the worst turnout they had in weeks, barely reaching over a hundred people. They continued to face a lot of hostility during their march and one male participant nearly got into a fight.
The efforts exposing the role neo-Nazi Brian Ruhe has had in organizing for No More Lockdowns has led to infighting, and impacted their rallies. This demonstrates the effectiveness of exposing these movements and individuals, even while staying indoors. One attendee said on their Facebook group that people he talked to will not attend anymore rallies because of Ruhe. This person was subsequently removed from the Facebook group for speaking out. Other than some postering efforts to expose Ruhe's neo-Nazism by unknown actors, it was mainly anti-fascist researchers on Twitter and organizations like the UBC Students Against Bigotry who were exposing Ruhe's involvement with the demonstrations online. Press Progress was the only media organization to report on Brian Ruhe's involvement, citing my work. The Surrey organizers also asked Ruhe to stop attending their events, although their protests are also on the decline due to their own leadership problems.
No More Lockdowns has another image problem as a result of their hostility to healthcare workers. Marco Pietro has faced some blowback online for insulting frontline healthcare workers and lying that he never made those remarks, even though there’s video evidence. Their protest against St. Paul’s hospital has even caused some division within their ranks. Dan Dicks, whose videos helped popularize the protests, called the action “absolutely deplorable” on his Twitter account and has not been to seen at the subsequent two demonstrations. In recent protests, they have tried to argue that they do not hate healthcare workers, they just want them to “speak out,” that is to promote aspects of their worldview. On Sunday they expressed this by arguing with a doctor they passed by, telling him hydroxychloroquine and zinc were cures for COVID-19, that viruses are not contagious or that COVID-19 testing is not accurate.
During their May 17th protest a man collapsed and they had to call for an ambulance, depending on the very people they call corrupt.
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A timeline of far-right events during COVID-19
They are refusing to stay at home, instead taking to the streets with conspiracy theories
Updated May 2, 2020
Canadian Anti-Hate Network & Kurt Phillips
Vancouver anti-lockdown protest. Sunday April 26, 2020. Source: Facebook.
Members and supporters of Canada’s hate groups stopped holding street-level demonstrations in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, instead spending all their time spreading conspiracy theories about the virus online. Some, like the Proud Boys, ID Canada, Atalante Quebec, and the Hundred Handers began putting up stickers and posters blaming immigrants, refugees, and multiculturalism for the spread of the virus.
Some vloggers and far-right activists have been filming hospital parking lots. Many smaller communities aren’t dealing with a large number of cases, elective procedures aren’t taking place, and visitors aren’t allowed. In their minds, however, empty parking lots are evidence that COVID-19 is a hoax.
There has been a shift in the past two weeks. Now, many far-right activists in Canada are ignoring social distancing and holding demonstrations because they want the lockdown to end. Many believe that the virus was engineered, or at least pushed along by China, the UN, or Jews and that it’s less deadly than reported. All the conspiracies agree on one point, however: that COVID-19 is being used as a pretext for more government control, taking away rights, and forcing a vaccine on the population.
Some want to emulate the traffic-jam demonstrations in the United States that have blocked hospital entrances. In Michigan and other states, thousands of far-right demonstrators descended on state capitols to demand that COVID-19 safety measures be lifted.
As usual, Canada’s far-right can't organize the same numbers. Nevertheless, with many of them swearing not to take a future vaccine, spreading misinformation, and encouraging others to ignore social distancing, they are a public health menace.
Here's what they've been doing:
Late March – BC
The BC chapter leader of Northern Guard claims a “snitch” called the police about a demonstration they are planning, which doesn’t come to fruition. President Nick Gallant promises to find the snitch. Several comments contain threats.
Ongoing – Calgary, AB
Anti-LGBTQ+ street preacher Artur Pawlowski was warned on March 23 for holding gatherings at Olympic Plaza and fined on April 3rd. Rebel Media is now fundraising off the incident.
Ongoing - Hamilton, ON
Yellow Vests in Hamilton continue their small weekly demonstrations (and have been filming hospitals).
April 11 – Calgary, AB
Continuing their tiny, almost-weekly demonstrations, a handful of Yellow Vests stand on a street corner with signs claiming COVID-19 is a hoax.
April 12 – Vancouver, BC
Susan Standfield-Spooner holds an anti-lockdown demonstration in downtown Vancouver that’s attended by about 20 people, including Dan Dicks, a conspiracy theorist vlogger, and well-known neo-Nazi Brian Ruhe.
April 12 – Vernon, BC
A smaller number of people went to a similar rally in Vernon, BC, describing COVID-19 as a hoax.
April 17 – Calgary, AB
A small number of Yellow Vesters have an anti-lockdown protest.
April 19 – Vancouver, BC
Neo-Nazi Brian Ruhe claims to be a co-organizer and thanks the police for “blocking traffic [and] giving us VIP treatment.” Attendees yell at passers-by calling them Chicoms (a slur for Chinese Communist), traitors, and libtards. Somewhere between a dozen and twenty people attend.
April 21 – Redvers, Saskatchewan
Travis Patron, leader of the neo-Nazi Canadian Nationalist Party, advertised a demonstration, but seemingly Patron and a cameraperson are the only people who attend. Patron throws up what he claims is a 'Roman salute', but what most people would more likely recognize as a 'Nazi salute', in front of a war memorial.
April 24 - Windsor, Ontario
"Holding up signs with messages like 'End the Shutdown' and 'I Got Bills,' about six people gathered at Walker Road and Ottawa Street to show their disagreement with ongoing restrictions meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19."
April 25 Quebec
Intending to block the bridge, demonstrators on Saturday were dispersed and escorted from Montreal to Quebec City by police, according to reporting by Xavier Camus.
April 25 – Toronto, Ontario
About 200 individuals, including but not primarily members and supporters of hate groups, protested against the lockdown at Queens Park.
April 26 – Vancouver, BC
The third anti-lockdown demonstration brought out about 50 people who received very negative attention from people in their apartments and passers-by. Neo-Nazi Brian Ruhe was happy to learn that the new Vancouver by-laws don’t allow for them to be ticketed.
May 2 - Toronto, Ontario
A smaller repeat demonstration at Queens Park.
May 2 - Surrey, BC
For more on Vancouver far-right organizing during COVID-19, see: https://anti-racistcanada.blogspot.com/2020/04/far-right-organizing-in-vancouver.html
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Dan Dicks has been banned from YouTube. He remains on the platform. However, one of his longer video on one of the anti-lockdown rallies was removed, presumably as part of YouTube's crackdown on COVID-19 conspiracies. We apologize for the error.
Do you know of an event that we missed? Send us a message with the details/sources at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is part of a series of articles and investigations into trends and new developments among Canada’s hate movements. We would like to thank an anonymous donor and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations for supporting this project.
University of British Columbia Hosts Anti-Trans Event Despite Outcry from Students, Faculty, and Staff
One protester faces assault charge after Jenn Smith’s event against sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) education
Special to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network
June 29, 2019
Anti-trans demonstrators gather in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on June 15th.
2019-08-02 update: The assault charges against the member of the LGBTQ+ community, referenced below, have been dropped.
Three people were detained by the RCMP, and one is reportedly being charged with assault, after protesting an anti-trans event at the University of British Columbia (UBC) on June 23rd. The talk featured Okanagan resident Jenn Smith, who refers to himself as a “transgender-identified male.”
UBC’s Vancouver campus was the latest stop in Smith’s speaking tour of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Smith weaponizes his asserted identity in trying to undermine trans rights, including sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) education in schools.
A video shared on Facebook shows a young woman, who identifies as queer, stand up and run towards the exit at the back of the room after someone outside pulls the fire alarm. She swings her arm as she rounds a corner at the back of the auditorium, and the Pride flag she is holding may come into contact with the head of a man, who ducks. Smith can then be heard screaming from the front of the room, “That is assault! Detain her!” The RCMP then detain the young woman.
Based on what is shown in the video [audio warning: the video is quite loud], Students Against Bigotry believes the assault charge against the protester is without merit. Furthermore, we believe she would not be facing charges were it not for Smith insisting it was assault.
The two others detained are both hijra, a non-binary identity recognized in South Asia. They can be seen in the same video sitting on the floor at the front of the room, then calmly being escorted out by police officers.
A trans person against trans rights?
Sponsored by the Canadian Christian Lobby, Smith is an anti-trans activist who denies the validity and lived reality of transgender people. He spreads misinformation and fear about transgender people as predators harming women and children, claiming that SOGI education is “brainwashing.”
This flies in the face of established research which shows that this inclusive programming reduces bullying and suicides, not just among LGBTQ2S+ youth but among all children. It is difficult to reconcile Smith’s apparent concern for kids with his position against policies that have been proven to save the lives of young people.
Smith pathologizes transgender people by alleging that mental illness is responsible for their gender identity. He describes his own as "impulses" that "came out of his childhood traumas and a sense of rejection."
Furthermore, he only acknowledges male and female identities, another anti-scientific view which erases not just intersex and non-binary people, but also Indigenous Two Spirit people, recognized by the Musqueam nation on whose stolen and occupied land this talk took place.
Smith writes on his website:
“We must at all times remain tethered to physical reality, and the physical reality in this case is that men cannot be women (and vice versa), no matter how much they pretty themselves up.
They can live and express any way they want, but they cannot force others to surrender physical reality, because that is selfish and dangerous to both women and children, and increasingly towards freedom itself.”
In addition, Smith has links to the Soldiers of Odin, a violent anti-Muslim hate group, which he has used as bodyguards for past events. In attendance at the UBC event was Vancouver neo-Nazi Brian Ruhe, as well as at least two individuals wearing People’s Party of Canada hats — further examples of Smith’s far-right support.
A few days before the talk, the UBC Faculty Association issued an open letter to the university’s Board of Governors urging them to cancel the event. Similarly, the Association of Administrative and Professional Staff (AAPS), the largest employee group at UBC representing nearly 5,000 staff members, stated in no uncertain terms in its own letter that hosting such an event on campus “risk[s] physical injury to the students, staff, and faculty of the University.”
This risk was made apparent when one event attendee, Donald Smith, filmed himself taunting and threatening queer protesters and allies with gendered profanities, and bragging that he knows where they live. “Come to Edmonton,” he can be heard saying in the video. “We'll show you how we do it down there. We hold baseball bats!"
According to UBC policy, the university “reserves the right to ensure that any use of Bookable Space does not compromise UBC’s or the UBC community’s activities, as well as the safety and security of persons and facilities.” But president Santa J. Ono apparently feels that hosting events of this nature does not compromise the community’s safety and security, or undermine the university’s research on transgender health or SOGI.
Administrators felt differently at Douglas College and Trinity Western University, which cancelled bookings by Jenn Smith once they became aware of the nature of the events, which they claim was not initially clear in the booking request.
Community responds with love and support
Smith is just the latest in a growing series of hateful and discriminatory individuals UBC has platformed with speaking engagements under the guise of “free speech.” In the past year alone, the university has also welcomed Jordan Peterson, Meghan Murphy, Ricardo Duchesne, and Ben Shapiro.
Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux were also scheduled to appear at UBC this past March, but efforts by Students Against Bigotry, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, and other groups forced them to relocate their event, then cancel it altogether
On Sunday, at a fountain near the building where Smith was speaking, about 50 people responded by gathering for a rally in support of the transgender community and their loved ones. The rally was organized by BC Families for Inclusivity (BCFFI) and included students, faculty, staff, and other community members.
BCFFI’s Brad Dirks gave a heartfelt speech about the harassment his family has faced from people like Smith. Last year, Dirks gave a TEDx Talk titled “My Journey as the Proud Parent of a Transgender Son.”
“You wouldn't speak to a neo-Nazi to obtain credible information about the Holocaust,” Dirks told a crowd that included other parents and their children. “So please treat your transgender friends, family, students, co-workers, and neighbours with the same respect . . . Stop obtaining information from transphobic bigots who spread lies and misinformation about our transgender loved ones.”
Another speaker, one of the people later detained, expressed her outrage and frustration that UBC administrators and president Santa J. Ono continue to allow far-right speakers to spew hate on campus.
The crowd then marched to the building where Smith was speaking, carrying balloons, banners, and flags. Slogans being chanted included “Protect trans kids,” “Save our kids from suicide,” and “Trans rights are human rights!” While some of the people with the rally entered the building and purchased tickets to attend Smith’s talk, most of the group continued to make noise outside.
The mood among the protesters was one of defiance and solidarity throughout the evening, in spite of attempted provocations by event attendees like Donald Smith.
No more hate speech at UBC!
This year’s Pride Month has been a difficult one for the LGBTQ2S+ community, which continues to be disproportionately targeted by violence. Recent confrontations at marches in Detroit, Hamilton, and Toronto again call the role of the police into question.
Just one week before the UBC event, Soldiers of Odin were present at an anti-trans rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery alongside members of the People’s Party of Canada and the neo-Nazi Ruhe.
Students Against Bigotry stands in complete and unwavering solidarity with all those targeted by hate speech, and all who oppose it alongside us — including the young woman protesting anti-trans hate and now facing what we believe to be an unjustified assault charge. We await the announcement of her court date, and we intend to be there to support her.
Students Against Bigotry is a grassroots student organization working to build community solidarity in opposition to hate speech at the University of British Columbia and beyond.
Editors note: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.