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Barrie group plans weekly protests until all restrictions are lifted

'I’ve been physically attacked, verbally attacked ... I’ve been called selfish and dangerous and I’ve had the cops called on me,' says organizer who refuses to wear a mask

A protest on Saturday against the current COVID-19 restrictions and health guidelines attracted about 60 people to Meridian Place. And organizers vow to be there every weekend until all the restrictions are lifted.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit went from the grey lockdown zone to the less restrictive red control zone on Monday, March 8. 

Under the red zone rules, people are still asked to wear masks while restaurants, gyms and personal care businesses must restrict their capacity.

The Freedom of Information Rally and Lockdown Dispute was held this past Saturday at Meridian Place and attracted approximately 60 people who are against the restrictions.

Tyler Nicholson, one of the organizers of the event, said he has “not ever, not once” wore a mask and he has been attacked for it.

“I’ve been physically attacked, verbally attacked, called a piece of shit. I’ve been called selfish and dangerous and I’ve had the cops called on me,” said Nicholson. “I’ve been stared at and ridiculed, but at the end of the day I understand that these people simply don’t have the information needed to make sound decisions.”

A March 6 protest was held in the same spot by business owners who were not against the health guidelines but rather who wanted to see changes to how the provincial colour-coded system worked. The majority of people at that protest wore masks.

A spokesperson for the organizers of that event told BarrieToday they had nothing to do with this past Saturday’s protest. 

Nicholson, a Barrie native, has nothing against the organizers of the March 6 protest, saying they were “amazing,” but their protest was better suited for last year.

“The last rally that took place was only interested in revising the lockdowns, not ending them," he explained. "It was almost to negotiate terms and guidelines to ultimately be able to work in not only the red zone but to work in the grey zone and I felt personally that that was a protest for last March.”

Nicholson said he believes the lockdown is illegal.

“As for us and this notion, we do not support any of the mandates, because it’s illegal to force any medical practice on the populace. However, we do support the freedom to decide for yourself what precautions you want to take to take care of your own health based on your idea of what is a risk or not," he said.

City of Barrie staff confirmed that no permits were issued by the city for Saturday’s protest, but said typically protests are not issued permits

The municipality's senior communications advisor, Scott Lamantia, said “bylaw staff do not respond to protests and these matters are typically referred to Barrie police.”

Barrie police were present during Saturday’s gathering. The force's communications coordinator, Peter Leon, said the community response unit was in attendance for the protest for safety precautions. 

“We acknowledge that people have the right to protest peacefully. It wasn’t the first in the space and it won’t be the last,” said Leon. “Our job in those situations is to observe and make sure the setting is safe for all who are there.”

Nicholson said there will be gatherings every Saturday at the same time and same place until all the restrictions are lifted. He also told BarrieToday the speakers at the event range “from nurses to teachers to doctors to biochemists to counsellors and psychiatric professionals.”

“The goal is to bring frontline workers with first-hand knowledge and experience to the people so that they can be provided with information otherwise suppressed by the mainstream media,” said Nicholson.

"We want to efficiently educate the people so they can then make an informed decision for themselves rather than just follow the herd without question.”