On Easter Sunday, a group of around fourteen people, led by an anti-vaxxer and documented by a conspiracy vlogger, intentionally broke social distancing and took to the streets of Vancouver.
Videos show the group—which featured both older people and a child—holding a sign featuring an illustration of the coronavirus and the words “Fake News.” The rally even featured one grey-haired person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask with sunglasses over it. In photos and videos, the protesters seem to pay no heed to the six feet rule experts have recommended to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Organizer Susan Standfield-Spooner told VICE that the quarantine measures put in place by the government have caused her to lose about 80% of the income she and her husband made from a consulting company. She said that she believes the deaths and homelessness that come from the financial strife brought about by the closures of business are far worse than the health impact of COVID-19, which has killed 735 Canadians as of Monday.
Social distancing measures are in place in an attempt to flatten the curve to slow the spread of COVID-19 so hospitals don’t become overwhelmed and cause an even larger loss of life.
Standfield-Spooner said she didn’t even know most of the people at the rally—a 70-year-old woman helped organize the event. The senior woman was present at the rally. Experts warn that those 70 years and older are the most at risk for dying from the disease. Standfield-Spooner said she believes the virus is real but the death tally has been exaggerated and that it was intentionally released upon the world. She also thinks the disease is infectious but not deadly, “like herpes.” Standfield-Spooner also has said that she believes the pandemic is an attempt by elites to strip citizens of their rights and vaccinate them. Social media posts show that she’s held anti-vaccinations beliefs for several years.
In British Columbia, like the majority of the rest of the country, non-essential businesses are closed and public gatherings are banned.
“Personally, my life has been destroyed,” said Standfield-Spooner. “I'm not sitting around enjoying it. I'm screwed. People would be surprised because I grew up, you know, in the status quo world of opportunity. I'm educated, have a wealthy background, whatever, but not right now. Right now, personally, I'm in the loser group.”
“(Chief Public Health Officer of Canada) Teresa Tam, I don’t know how she's sleeping at night,” Standfield-Spooner said.
Standfield-Spooner said this march was just a trial run and bigger rallies are on the way.
Stanfield-Spooner was only able to get a small group out in Vancouver but did inspire a similar rally in Vernon B.C. at the same time. At the Vernon rally attendees—even those who described the virus as a hoax—stood six feet apart. The Vernon rally's organizer told a local publication that, like Standfield-Spooner, they believe social distancing for healthy people is "tyranny."
"Waiting in lines outside of stores is not normal—we don't want it anymore, and it needs to stop," Sylvia Herchen told Castanet.
The march was attended and promoted by Dan Dicks, a bit player in the Canadian conspiracy scene. Dicks sent a tweet out from the rally—showing him in aviators talking about how people are fighting back—that went viral.
“Vancouverites aren’t drinking the kool-aid,” Dicks said in the video. “They’re getting out and getting together here to show the world that we’re not OK with unlawful orders and quarantines and lockdowns.”
Dicks had originally posted a longer video of the rally but it was removed by YouTube, which is cracking down on conspiracy videos. Dicks boasts a YouTube channel called Press for Truth with over 260,000 subscribers in which he posts mishmash of videos ranging from his more conspiracy-centric videos about globalists, wireless technology, and Trudeau’s evil plans; to more far-right videos like an endorsement of alt-right figure Faith Goldy during her Toronto mayoral campaigns, and videos railing against the irregular migrants at Roxham Road.
Recently Dicks has turned his eye to COVID-19 and conspiracies surrounding that, with a focus on the “tyranny” of self-isolation. Experts have warned that during a pandemic conspiracies can do real damage to real people. As for the 70-year-old organizer who helped organize the anti-lockdown rally,Standfield-Spooner said it was her choice to come out.
“People participate in life by choice,” said Standfield-Spooner. “It's more likely there's a woman there who was 70, I think she was the oldest… I think she’s more likely to die from a car accident in Canada.”
There were 160 car accident fatalities per month in Canada in 2018, roughly 600 less than the amount of people who have died due to coronavirus over the last month.
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