By: Mike Anderson
A crowd of nearly 40 demonstrators held an anti-lockdown protest on Saturday afternoon at the corner of Woodbine Ave. and Dovedale Dr. in Keswick.
The demonstrators, many of whom did not wear masks, called on the Ford government to lift the province-wide lockdown they say is destroying small businesses.
Richard Fleming, a Sutton resident, organized the event through his Facebook group “End The Lockdown Georgina Ontario,” which, according to Mr. Fleming, has over 650 followers.
“I don’t feel this lockdown is fair for local small businesses. They’re suffering. And I feel they can open safely,” Mr. Fleming said.
While Mr. Fleming was hoping to have more people show up, he was buoyed by the positive response he got from most motorists who honked or gave a thumbs up.
“I’m very happy to be here and have their support. I think it’s going to grow,” he said. “I only had four days to organize this, so hopefully, more people will come out. We’re going to continue this every weekend.”
However, not all the motorists were supportive. One woman, whose pickup stopped at a red light, yelled that the protestors should be ashamed of themselves.
While Mr. Fleming does not own a small business, he’s upset that he can’t shop in person locally and is forced to turn to online retailers.
“I have a cardboard sign because I can’t even go to Walmart and buy one,” he said.
“I can’t get a haircut. And I’ve had to buy my clothing lately from Amazon, which does not pay Canadian taxes. And I don’t feel that’s right. I should be able to go to Angelo’s in town and buy my clothing like I always have.”
Roseann Guglietti, the owner of Angelo’s Sportswear in Keswick, was also at the protest and wants the lockdown lifted.
“I’d like to go back to normal business with precautions,” said Ms. Guglietti, who was fined by The Town of Georgina in January after her 87-year-old father placed a display rack on the sidewalk outside her shop.
“The Ford government started to listen to small business when they cordoned off Walmart and Costco, but that’s a little bit late now. With this lockdown, they’re definitely not listening anymore.”
“It’s now getting very serious for most businesses. They’re going to be suffering within the next month or two. There’s only so much funding, and it will only take you so far. If you have no money coming in, how do you maintain everything?”
Ray Zammit, the owner of Zammit’s Barber Shop in Sutton, brought a homemade cardboard sign which said “Lockdowns Don’t Work” and “End The Lockdown.”
Mr. Zammit believes his barbershop is safe, so he doesn’t understand why his business is shut down.
“I have one chair, and people come in, and then they leave. There’s no way they’re going to get a germ from my store, not compared to a big store.”
“We’re all frustrated. And a lot of people are now out of money, and they’re going to lose their livelihood and everything that they worked for all those years that they were going to give to their kids.”
While some demonstrators wore masks and socially distanced, many did not.
A near-naked Weldon Hachey, aka Barrie Thong Man, who is becoming a fixture at anti-lockdown protests, caught the attention of many of the motorists.
“It started off as a bit of a joke when Ford said clothing is non-essential,” Mr. Hachey said.
“But look at the honking. We’re getting very little negativity. I’d say 99 per cent of the people are against the government. They know this isn’t working.”
Mr. Hachey was one of the protestors who chose not to wear a mask.
“It’s been a year and a half and everywhere you go, you see people wearing masks. Well, if they work, then how come the government keeps telling us the numbers are getting worse,” he said.
York Regional Police and Town bylaw officers did not attend the protest, so no fines were issued for holding an outdoor gathering, which are now prohibited unless all parties are from the same household, or the province-wide stay-at-home order.
However, Ward 1 Councillor Mike Waddington expressed his opposition to the protest in an email statement to The Post.
“As a small business owner myself, I can assure you that any anti-lockdown protests in support of business does not represent my interests,” Councillor Waddington said.
“In a time when most organizations are struggling to keep their staff and communities safe, these actions promote dangerous behaviour and counter the advice of health professionals. Although I support people’s right to protest, I do not support the reason for doing so in this case.”
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