When protesting turns into arrogance, it’s time to go home
Kaileigh Bunting // Contributor
Megan Barry // Illustrator
I’ve always prided myself in being a good mediator—someone who could always find the middle ground and come to a compromise in any situation. Until recently, I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d felt truly angry towards someone or something. In September, however, as I witnessed hospital entrances and emergency vehicle routes blocked by anti-vaccination protesters, I felt a knot of anger in my stomach that left me shaking.
For B.C. residents, this September marked the 19th month since the COVID-19 pandemic flipped our communities upside down. What first started as whispers of a virus from across the globe quickly turned into something larger than any one country or government could control. At that time, aside from the hardship that came from locking down the economy, there was no debate on the lethality of the virus that to date, has killed over 4.7 million people. In the early months of the pandemic, I remember the whole world praying collectively for a vaccine that would stop the spread of the disease and allow us to return back to some feeling of normalcy. It seems now, a year and a half later, some people have forgotten the initial horrors of the pandemic and are protesting the implementations that have the power to keep our communities safe, and return us to a place resembling a pre-covid world.
I do not think it is wrong to protest. Regardless of what your beliefs are, as long as the protesting doesn’t harm any other individual or group of people, you have a right, a duty even, to protest. Unfortunately, that is not what these anti-vaccination passport and anti-mask protests seem to be. For one, their message of “our body our choice” is wildly contradicted as we’ve seen these protesters threatening passersby for their choice to mask up. Even more infuriating has been the verbal and physical harassment that healthcare workers have had to endure from these protests. These incidents selfishly interrupt frontline workers as they struggle to work in a system that is already bleeding from a worldwide pandemic.
On Sept. 1, protesters took to the streets surrounding St. Paul’s and Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, blocking emergency vehicles and staff from entering the area. Horribly, as a result of this transport delay, a Vancouver paramedic stated she watched as her patient bled out in front of her from life-threatening, time-sensitive trauma. Their transport time was doubled due to the protest. Seeing this unfold not only made me angry—it made me feel sick, disgusted and embarrassed to be a Canadian. The lack of compassion expressed by these citizens had serious implications for patients needing access to emergency healthcare, and for many workers was the emotional breaking point as they tried to carry out their jobs. The malicious actions of protesters in this extreme display of “freedom of speech” was wrong, and should not be allowed to happen again.
While I can see how polarizing this issue has become, I don’t have a compromise; I cannot find the middle ground. I think protests like these should be stopped before they start, and that people who are involved in the harassment of bystanders and healthcare workers should be removed before the situation gets worse. I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion and their beliefs, but you forfeit that right as soon as you jeopardize the life of someone else.