An estimated 80 protesters gathered Wednesday, Aug. 25 in downtown Williams Lake as part of a Fight 4 Freedom movement.
The group gathered above the Stampede Grounds in the curling rink parking lot , some with anti-vaccine and anti-government signs, and walked to Williams Lake City Hall where they made their presence known. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated protesters were welcomed, say participants, who noted their protest was for the right choose whether or not they wanted to be vaccinated.
“Today there was significant turnout of people in Williams Lake B.C. who do not support the B.C. government mandated vaccine passports,” protester Patricia Boros told the Tribune. “It is a disgusting and outrageous overreach of our government, we need to put a stop to this. I will not stand by and be forced to take a vaccine to go out to eat or watch a movie in the theatre.”
On Aug. 23, the B.C. government announced it is implementing a vaccine passport program for movies, restaurants, ticketed sports events and other indoor group activities as it deals with the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.
Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the new measures Monday, citing statistics that show 90 per cent of new coronavirus cases are in people who haven’t been fully vaccinated. The B.C. Vaccine Card will be needed to show a first dose of vaccine as of Sept. 13, with a second dose requirement as of Oct. 24. It will be required for entry to restaurants, including patios, ticketed indoor sports events and concerts, casinos, night clubs and high-intensity fitness classes.
The proof of vaccination will also be required for organized indoor events such as weddings, parties, conferences and workshops. The secure website will require name, date of birth and personal health number, and the vaccine card can be saved to a smartphone for entry to restricted venues.
The Business Council of B.C., B.C. Chamber of Commerce and other groups asked the province for the measures in a letter to Horgan last week. They said businesses that are at risk of being closed again for pandemic orders need help to enforce restrictions designed to protect people at sporting events and other gathering sites.
At the protest in Williams Lake Wednesday, the mostly unmasked crowd chanted “my body, my choice.”
Witnesses on hand said the gathering was mostly peaceful, however, a couple of young city staffers were berated and told to ‘take your masks off’ as they were leaving city hall.
Williams Lake CAO Gary Muraca confirmed those summer students were overwhelmed by the aggressive interaction with protesters, and sent home for the remainder of the day.
“It was too much for them to take – they were intimidated,” Muraca said.
“To me I think that it’s OK to fight for your cause peacefully but when you are a grown adult and you’re intimidating summer students who are at work you should really reflect on what you’re trying to accomplish … this is not a good way the gain support of others.””
Muraca noted the aggressive protesters were just a small group who put a blemish on the others.
“99 per cent were fantastic.”
Muraca also confirmed a few protesters entered city hall and asked for Mayor Walt Cobb to come down and address the crowd. Muraca said Cobb was busy at the time and not interrupted by staff to attend the protest.
Another Fight 4 Freedom protest is planned for next Wednesday at 1 p.m., said Boros.
– With a file from Tom Fletcher.
This story has been updated with more information regarding the number of participants, the fact that vaccinated and unvaccinated residents were invited to the protest and that some protesters yelled at city staff to remove their masks as they were leaving city hall. Comments from the city’s CAO were also included in the update.