'Hitler-type reality': Freedom rally diehards still protest outside Waterloo Public Square

·2 min read

Frustration with COVID-19 restrictions brought out around two dozen maskless demonstrators to Waterloo Public Square on Nov. 28.

The group stood outside the entrance in defiance of public health guidelines to wear a face covering, practice physical distancing and avoid large gatherings.

Some uneasy shoppers avoided the crowd of demonstrators, steering clear of the group on the way to use the entrance while a few bemused passersby stood back and took pictures.

The Chronicle spoke with some of the group’s proponents, who were compelled by a hodgepodge of beliefs, but were mostly alarmed by what they considered governmental overreach and people’s willingness to go along with it.

Scott Bartels, of Puslinch, said he was attending the demonstration because he felt the government’s COVID-19 safety measures had "gone way too far” and likened it to a "tail wagging the dog."

“Wearing a mask should be a choice,” he added, and likened COVID-19 to the flu.

He said folks should “protect the vulnerable, while the rest of us should go about our business.”

Some dissenters held up signs that read, “God gave me an immune system,” “Please seek the truth,” and “Pandemic is over.”

Organizers had planned the Freedom Rally at 2 p.m. at the square, which was cancelled and moved to Toronto, according to an updated flyer circulating on social media.

Curtis Collins said he came to the rally from Kitchener because he wanted to see how many people showed up and "support the cause of freedom, basically.”

The threat of the virus wasn’t "as big of a thing as they make it out to be," he noted.

“If I kept running across people with COVID-19, I’d be concerned, definitely concerned,” he added.

Paul Henderson, who described himself as a reformed criminal and a sermonizing Pentecostal, didn’t stick around too long but said he had come “wanting to represent Jesus in this hour.”

He said he wanted to follow Jesus, a healer, and not “live in fear.”

“I’ve had intestinal healings, so sickness is never the issue. It’s what you put your faith in.”

Henderson said he wasn't anti-mask, though he compared the province’s COVID-19 restrictions to a “Hitler-type reality.”

Waterloo region on Saturday broke its single day record for COVID-19 cases, with 86.

Swikar Oli, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times