Anti-lockdown rally held in Pembroke
A rally in Pembroke on Saturday called for an end to the COVID-19 restrictions. (Dylan Dyson/CTV News Ottawa)
PEMBROKE -- Upwards of 150 people gathered in Riverside Park in Pembroke Saturday for an anti-lockdown rally, calling for businesses and communities to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are anti-lockdown, we want to help the lockdown end," says Jack Lapierre, one of the speakers at the rally, to CTV News Ottawa. "The businesses are essential services. The people need their businesses to be open."
Lapierre says the gathering was to get people back to living their lives safely, and claims the group is not anti-mask, anti-social distancing, or anti-vaccine.
Rob Stocki also spoke at the rally and claims to be a member of the group "Police On Guard."
"Our goal, our hope with gatherings like this is to let people know what their rights are and that they do have a voice, and the government, as much as they want to, cannot stop people from peacefully gathering," says Stocki, adding that he was pleased with Saturday’s turnout.
"Marches months ago were only a few hundred people. Now the last time I was [at a march], there was 12,000 that I was speaking to, and we’re growing. People are getting fed up."
The rally in Pembroke had been promoted online in recent weeks, with an advert being published in a recent edition of a local newspaper.
The message from both city and health officials continues to be the same since the start of the pandemic; do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19. The rally caused frustrations for Renfrew County’s medical officer of health, who says there is an end in sight.
"We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re going to probably move to a 60 per cent vaccine rate, first time shot this week," says Dr. Robert Cushman. "Mr. Ford opened certain things up last week. We hope schools will open up next week."
While regional OPP say they were aware of Saturday’s gathering, Pembroke’s mayor says the city was not directly made aware of the events taking place.
"I understand the frustrations, and we've been going through this, almost 15 months now," says Mayor Michael LeMay, who believes it was a small minority of the city’s population who attended to rally. "Everybody is doing their best, and I think at this stage we're so close. It's too bad that this rally took place at a time when it should not have happened, you know, because of the law in the province of Ontario."
"We don’t believe the government," says Lapierre, when asked why the rally was being held so close to the planned reopening dates. "[They] said things are going to start ending end of June, we don’t know if that’s going to be the case."
In an attempt to ease tensions, Renfrew County’s top doctor offers hope to all, with the region ready to hit the 60 percent first dose vaccination mark this week.
"June starts on Tuesday, and I think by the middle of June, boy we’re going to see a big change," says Dr. Cushman.