Violent COVID Conspiracy Rhetoric Is Escalating Around Vaccination Of Children

Children aged five to 12 have been approved to be vaccinated after further study by health regulators in Canada and around the world. Now, talk of violent action against everyone from clinicians to hospitals to public health officials and even pharmacies is increasing.

Canadian Anti-Hate Network

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Since the announcement of vaccine approval for children under the age of 12, the tone and language within COVID-conspiracy spaces has been heating up. Among tens of thousands of messages of outrage are wanton calls for violence and fantasies of harming public officials, pharmacists, doctors, and more.

In late November, the self-proclaimed Queen of Canada, Romana Didulo, ordered her following of over 70,000 to target and execute those found administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children. Following a complaint by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Didulo was picked up by the RCMP, but released shortly thereafter. Referring to these activities as “duck hunting,” additional orders by Didulo included telling her followers to seize the border and take control of major media outlets. No charges have been announced by police. 

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The calls to “duck hunters” on both sides of the border were shocking, as was the enthusiastic response from Didulo’s supporters.

In this moment, the QAnon inspired figure took a big step away from Q’s signature “trust the plan” into recruiting people as soldiers on the ground, taking part, and pushing “the plan” forward. With one of the largest followings on Canada’s political fringes, Didulo has one of the largest followings among fringe figures in the country, and she is not the only one calling for violence. 

With recent approval for vaccinations being approved for use on children between the ages of five and 12, however, researchers are noting a strong uptick in the language and ideation of violent acts being carried out against anyone viewed as driving vaccinations forward. 

In December, the likeness of British Columbia’s premier, as well as two senior ministers, were hanged in effigy. Dressed in white Tyvek suits with printouts of the politicians’ faces affixed, the bodies were strung up during a protest billing itself as “Nuremberg 2.0” – a nod to the post-Second World War criminal trials of members of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Workers Party. The fact that some Nazis were also hanged is not lost on those in attendance. In fact, it is mentioned in the event listing for the magazine responsible for organizing the event.

“We, the people, unite in solidarity to honour the marriage between the 10 Nuremberg Medical Principles and our beloved Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Common Ground scrawled on a webpage promoting the second “anniversary” of the Nuremberg trials. “These two form a mighty union to protect our democracy, our children, and our grandchildren. Just as our parents and grandparents fought the Nazis in the 1940s to protect our democratic freedoms, we are fighting these medicalized fascists and their corrupted government actors now.”

Noting that December 9, 1946, was the day that began the proceedings for “Nazi doctors” in Germany, the magazine notes that the doctors were “convicted and sentenced to death for their atrocities. What began as pretense of medical care became the concentration camps. One of the first groups signing on to support the Nazi’s Final Solution were doctors.”

Adding later that, “Now they are going after our children,” alongside claims that the COVID-19 vaccination was not tested on children – though medical research and government advisories state that it has been.

The magazine told Global News it had not invited the individuals who erected the mock-gallows. 

Around the country, other disturbing scenes have played out in a similar fashion. These types of threats or calls for violence against politicians are not new. Yet their prevalence, and the growing possibility of offline violence and escalation, are cause for concern. 

In Alberta, United Conservative Party MLA for Grande Prairie Tracy Allard watched as around 30 people gathered outside her home in early November. The group eventually left without incident, but behind them left a sign of their intentions – a makeshift gallows. 

“After about 90 minutes the crowd dispersed, and the police left. What was left behind, however, was more chilling,” Allard wrote on her Facebook page, “a stand with a noose declaring ‘no to masks, end the gov’t, hang ‘em all.’”

In the encrypted digital spaces that the movement communicates, things strike a very similar tone. 

“Enough talk! Action speaks louder!” said a user in a prominent QAnon chat room, frustrated by the lack of action from his compatriots.. “Stop lying to we the patriots!  Stop giving us bull shit dates! They are killing our kids now with the vaccines! I thought this was about saving the children’s [sic]!”

The phrase “they’re coming for our kids,” is common, as are violent threats against everyone from public health officials to doctors and other healthcare workers, and of course, politicians. 

“There's been definitely kind of an uptake in urgency in terms of the anti-vax movement around kids now being eligible for the vaccine. That's definitely ramped up,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, an extremism researcher and professor at Queen’s University

“I think overall there's a general urgency now in terms of ‘they're doing something to our kids,’ ‘they're going to make it mandatory to mass vaccinate children’ and ‘somebody needs to do something about it.’”

This separates the current issue from the pre-COVID vaccine protests, according to Amarasingam. 

“We haven't seen this kind of violent rhetoric when it came to children and vaccine hesitancy around autism, for example.”

There is a broader community of people that will deal with anti-vaccination activists and the protests they inspire that may not be prepared or even aware of how things are heating up on the front lines. This leaves not only nurses and doctors open to potential harm, but security guards, pharmacy workers, and anyone in front-line positions. 

“People need to keep an eye on the temperature in some of these online communities and make sure that the kind of on the ground response is at least aware of what's going on because sometimes I feel like there's a huge disconnect between what journalists researchers and federal law enforcement are seeing and watching in the online space and what local security and local police officers actually even know about.” 

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