When a large group of people gathered on Main Street in Penticton, British Columbia for the ongoing protest against the COVID-19 mandates, a small group of counter-protesters gathered from l across the street.
He held up signs reading ‘thank you for protecting me’, ‘vaccines save lives’ and ‘let’s not forget who fought, sacrificed and died for our freedom’.
“What we want to do is show the people of Penticton that there is another side and there is another voice. There are so many volunteers here on short notice that we organized this on Friday,” counter-protest organizer Ajeet Brar said.
Counter-protesters say they were “frustrated” walking past the intersection every weekend and seeing the freedom rally.
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“They are not the only voice. I started to get frustrated walking past here every week and listening to them – seeing their rhetoric which started to get very hateful. I know deep down that’s not what they claim to stand for, but that’s what he shaped,” Brar said.
Brar says he wanted the event to be positive and even made sign suggestions for people who wanted to attend.
“We are here to show one side of a story and an argument. People can make their own decisions, and I think we can agree on that. We are not here to cause conflict,” he said.
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Both protests started peacefully, but according to Brar, the environment became “hostile” and they decided to wrap up early instead of engaging with the other protesters.
“Penticton, there is a voice here for science, for vaccines. We respect the other side. We did not encourage them. They came to try to argue with us, but we know that at the end of the day we’re not going to convince them, and they’re not going to convince us,” Brar said.
The group says its goal was to avoid attacking the knowledge and beliefs of protesters who oppose COVID-19 mandates, but instead to open a dialogue between the two groups.
“One quote that has really stuck with me and that I try to emphasize today is that ‘every conspiracy theorist shouldn’t be seen as another yahoo or lunatic, they should be seen as scientists who have been misguided”. That’s why we don’t want to attack these people. We want to make sure we understand that they have a right to question people and ask why. However, the sources they check might not be as factual as they might think,” Brar said.
He says Sunday’s counter-protest could be the first of many to come to Penticton.
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