Last Saturday was my first time attending the weekly Toronto Freedom Rally at Queen’s Park, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Rebel News cameraman Syd and I arrived to more police than protesters, but the crowd soon began to thicken, and the atmosphere was friendly.
Things quickly escalated, however, as a protester was circled, questioned and ultimately ticketed and removed by police. The official charge on the ticket was breaking the stay-at-home order, but the individual had likely brought attention to himself because he and his wife were building and distributing anti-lockdown/vaccine signs. The interaction was a sour start to an otherwise peaceful day, which included free-form speeches, music, and of course, the march.
We left Queen’s Park and after a few wrong turns ended up doing a counter-clockwise loop of the city, ending up on Lakeshore, up Yonge, and then back at Queen’s Park.
During the march, the crowd could be heard cheering for freedom and chanting, “Arrest Doug Ford,” a semi-ironic statement from the anti-lockdown crowd, but a message that put it simply — these people have had it with Ford and his management of the pandemic.
I spoke to protesters of all ages and backgrounds. Although some had been coming for over a year, some, like me, were there for the first time. One sentiment was common among the group: it’s time to open Toronto back up.
Aside from a handful of people, the crowd avoided Yonge-Dundas Square. The square has been a point of contention between demonstrators and police for a year now, as some have noticed the police picking and choosing which protests they allow, and which they crack down on. I spoke with an attendee at the rally who had himself been dragged out of Yonge-Dundas Square by police back in January.
For him and many others, these gatherings are not just about defying the stay-at-home order, but a commitment to the much larger fight. That fight being for our Charter rights to be upheld, specifically our freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
As the march came to an end, the group divided into partiers, advocates, and those, like myself, who were ready to put their feet up.