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Why COVID Protests Should Be Clear in Purpose

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

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This Protest Is Not What It Seems

On their surface, the anti-lockdown protests that have occurred at Meridian Place in Barrie, Ontario every Saturday since early March 2021 seem to be just responding to restrictions to a range of businesses that have been severely impacted since the COVID-19 pandemic began to rage. Ontario is now at a per capita rate of COVID-19 that outstrips that of the United States. Shortly before that particular distinction occurred, Ontario premier Doug Ford pulled what he calls the "emergency brake" and put the entire province effectively on lockdown, with a stay-at-home order being put into effect once more on Thursday, April 8, 2021. As might be expected, individuals and businesses are being negatively impacted by these on-again, off-again lockdowns, and some are seemingly taking it to the streets in order to make their feelings known.

There are many Ontario small businesses that have been working hard to ensure they are following all safety and health protocols that have been enacted by the government. They've ensured their clients have been masked, sanitized, and are maintaining social distancing appropriately. While I am not a business owner myself, I could well appreciate the fact that businesses probably appreciate every bit of support they've been getting, whether it's been people writing their MPP to protest the closure of these small businesses that have been following protocols where outbreaks have been occurring in warehouses and bigger box stores.

However, in looking at a good many of the images from the anti-lockdown protests at Meridian Place in downtown Barrie, it does appear as though these individuals aren't necessarily protesting the lockdowns. It appears as though these individuals aren't observing social distancing protocols or, for the most part, wearing masks. I can't see small businesses thinking it's cool that these protests are happening with people not distancing and wearing masks.

See, it's great to see people standing up for what they believe in, but I'd argue that they are protesting the wearing of masks rather than the lockdown itself. Given how hard these small businesses have worked to meet all safety protocols in their day-to-day operations while they were able to remain open, it's hard to think they'd support protesters who are unmasked and not following safety protocols.

It's one thing to say you're protesting against something that you feel is wrong, but you need to be clear about what, exactly, you're protesting and what the optics of that are. If you're saying you're protesting the lockdown, but you're in big crowds and are unmasked, that's not necessarily the image you're conveying.

In the protest on April 10, 2021, there were reportedly 300 individuals estimated to be in attendance at this anti-lockdown event. 300 individuals all in one location, with businesses that were trying to conduct curbside pickup, during a stay-at-home order when gatherings of no more than five individuals outside are typically allowed.

I understand people wanting to protest the restrictions. The restrictions are frustrating and not incredibly clear a lot of the time. We haven't seen our loved ones up close and personal, and we haven't been able to engage in our regular activities that we enjoyed pre-pandemic. There is only so much bread we can bake and Tik Tok videos we can imitate before we feel as though we've officially had enough.

However, it's one thing to say you're protesting the lockdown, but another matter to protest masking. If you're protesting the lockdown as a whole, you can still do that safely, with social distancing and masking and if need be sanitizing stations around. People can be kept safe and still raise their voices against a lockdown they feel might be unfair to businesses or their own continued employment.

If you're protesting the wearing of masks but claiming you're protesting the lockdown against businesses, you're trying to engage in something that's not going to protect you given the current health situation and sending mixed messages about what you're really planning to do. You're also not being fair to the businesses being impacted if you're claiming to protest with no safety protocols being recognized at all. It could be seen as disrespectful to those businesses who have been working so hard to be safe in spite of the restrictions.

Be clear on your messaging. Be safe in your protesting.


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