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Hundreds attend 'freedom of choice' protest in Calgary denouncing COVID-19 mandates

Last Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:21 am MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) ─ Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside Calgary’s city hall Sunday afternoon in what was called a “freedom of choice” rally by organizers.

Protesters voiced their displeasure with pandemic protocols and widespread mandates.

A poster for the event called on demonstrators to “stand united with firefighters, EMS, police, nurses, AHS and City of Calgary workers.”

Calgary has mandated vaccines for all city employees.

The numbers on Sunday were substantially larger than an initial protest for first responders held on Tuesday.

Speaking to the crowd, one organizer told protesters that mandates are discriminatory.

Credit: CITYNEWS/Cara Campbell

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Sunday’s event is part of a nationwide two days of protesting organized by the group Canadian Frontline Nurses.

Hospitals in all 10 provinces are preparing for a day of protest on Monday. In Alberta, the protests are taking place outside Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre and Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital.

On their website, organizers from Canadian Frontline Nurses say are calling the gatherings “a silent vigil to honour those affected by measures put in place over the last year and half. Our cries and concerns have been ignored for too long.”

The group is asking demonstrators to keep any signs away from the vaccine narrative, focusing instead on pro-choice and against mandates.

READ: Demonstrations planned outside Canadian hospitals on Monday

While many in the crowd Sunday claimed to be “pro-choice,” the anti-vaxx and anti-mask rhetoric was ongoing.

Retired firefighter Blake Willard told CityNews first responders did not have to be vaccinated because spreading COVID-19 to vulnerable people on the front line was unlikely.

“The likelihood of that happening is so slim, it’s insurmountable, it’s not even describable,” said Willard.

Aengus Bridgman, the director of the Canadian Election Misinformation Project, says the spread of misinformation on social media continues to play a big part in the protesters’ rhetoric.

“You’re more likely to believe that piece of information the second, third, fourth, 100th time you’ve seen it, as compared to that first time,” said Bridgman. “So maybe the first time they saw it and they said, ‘this is ridiculous, this doesn’t make sense.’

“I think a lot of people have been confused with misinformation over the last several years.”

Bridgman says 80 per cent of the Canadian population supports vaccination, and that these groups represent a small portion.

“It’s hard to feel compassion for individuals who are putting the lives of their fellow Canadians at risk, but they’ve been duped, they’ve been lied to in a systematic way, and have fallen for something that is really, deeply problematic.”