Simultaneous protests and counter-protests across the Maritimes on gender education in schools
Hundreds of protesters turned up across the Maritimes at simultaneous protests and counter-protests Wednesday centered around gender education and policies in schools.
In Halifax, protesters packed in front of city hall in a protest and counter-protest, which continued as a march around downtown before both groups returned to the Grand Parade.
“The demonstration grew to approximately 1,200 people that consisted of mainly two separate groups,” said Cst. John MacLeod, with the Halifax Regional Police, in a news release Wednesday.
On one side protesters gathered as part of events being held throughout Canada, created by a group called “1MillionMarch4Children” which says rally participants are “standing together against gender ideology in schools.” Bearing signs with slogans such as “Leave our kids along,” they chanted, “Protect our kids!”
“Our children should be learning about playing with toys,” said protestor Susan Campbell.
“And their ABCs and arithmetic, and not about the things that they’re trying to teach them, and I’m not even going to say these things.”
“I’m against the government…pushing sexual orientation on children,” said parent Michelle Briella.
“I don’t think it’s right, and it’s got to stop.”
Protesters and counter-protesters in Grand Parade in Halifax face-off, voicing their opinions on gender ideology in schools. (CTV/Carl Pomeroy)
"THIS IS GETTING OLD"
On the other side, members of the LGBTQ2S+ community chanted “Trans rights are human rights,” and waved rainbow pride and trans flags with messages such as, “No space for hate.”
“Well, you know, I’ve been queer for a long time, this is getting old,” said counter-protester Heather Roberts.
“I just want to be here to support everyone. It’s really, really sad to see that people have those thoughts, but those are their thoughts.”
“I was, unfortunately, not able to transition until my late thirties due to harassment in the school system,” said Dreya Jordan.
“And that’s the main thing that we want to prevent with these children, is for them not to be harassed in the school system.”
Halifax police had a large presence downtown, positioning cruisers and closing Argyle Street between Sackville and Duke Streets. Officers with bikes stood between the two groups to keep them separated.
The "1MillionMarch4Children" protesters left Grand Parade after about a half-hour of chanting back and forth, and passed by Province House, followed by the counter protesters up to Citadel Hill before then returning to city hall.
While emotions were high, there did not appear to be any major incidents during the protests, which lasted three hours before participants dispersed.
The Halifax Regional Police says a 16-year-old was arrested and will face charges of assault with a weapon, mischief (property damage) and causing a disturbance.
In Moncton, hundreds gathered in protest and counter-protest in Centennial Park Wednesday morning.
The "1MillionMarch4Children" group walked around nearby Bessborough School and what started as a mostly calm and peaceful protest escalated when the march made its way back to the park.
Dozens of protesters on each side shouted chants while being separated by RCMP and city by-law officers.
Counter-protester Chris McDonald said he was constantly verbally harassed by the million-march crowd, but was glad to show his support for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
He said he feared for his safety at times during the protest.
"There's a lot of people coming up to me, putting their hands in my face. There's guys pushing me back. I've been threatened with some guy's dogs, and in general there's a lot of hate," said McDonald.
Blakney Robichaud said her group stands with Premier Blaine Higgs in regards to his comments about students not keeping secrets about their gender identity from their parents. However, she stressed she is not anti-LGBTQ2S+ in any way.
“I stand for inclusion,” said Robichaud. “I have family and friends who are part of the community and I’ve never been against the community, ever.”
Dozens of members of Moncton's Muslim community were vocal in their protest, saying schools are teaching their kids about topics that don't align with their beliefs.
Masood Bawany said the protest was originally organized by the Muslim community in Canada.
Several children and adults were confrontational with members of the counter-protesters, but Bawany said they don’t support violence of any kind.
“We don't want to confront anybody. We know that some individuals involved, the youth sometimes, gets pumped up and start saying things, but we do not support that. We weren't here for that,” said Bawany.
"MY JOB IS NOT TO BE POLITICAL"
Anglophone East School District Superintendent Randy MacLEAN said he made sure students were kept inside during the protest, but wouldn't comment directly on the nature of the march.
“My job is not to be political. I try to stay above that and work in the operations part of it. We live in a democracy and the beauty of the freedom of speech,” said MacLEAN.
"1MillionMarch4Children" Moncton organizer Charlene Blakney Robichaud was glad to see the large turnout of supporters.
"I love that so many people came out to stand for protection of our children and for the protection of parents' rights. Parents are feeling very left out and like they don't have a say on their own kids," said Blakney Robichaud.
The crowd dispersed from Centennial Park around 1:15 p.m.
Click here for a photo gallery of images from the protests in Halifax and Moncton.
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