One man was punched in the face while others on his side holding Pride flags and signs were spat on and ridiculed during opposing protests outside of Coquitlam City Hall this morning, Sept. 20.
The 1 Million March 4 Children rally against sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in the classrooms drew more than 500 people from around Metro Vancouver as the movement Hands Off Our Kids staged demonstrations in some 70 municipalities across the country.
Coquitlam's counter-protest was organized by the Tri-Cities Pride Society, of which about 80 people stood at the corner of Guildford and Pinetree ways to meet the protesters who then walked to the opposite side of the street and later marched to Buchanan Square and around the block chanting "Leave Our Kids Alone" and "SOGI is a big lie."
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Civic politicians did not witness the march as they were in Vancouver for the annual Union of BC Municipalities Convention; however, School District 43 (SD43) trustee Jennifer Blatherwick, the secretary for the Tri-Cities Pride Society, was on scene along with Claire MacLean, executive director of SHARE Family and Community Services, a social services agency.
"SHARE is a part of this community," MacLean said. "Our aim is to make sure that everyone is safe and protected. There is no place for hate and discrimination in the Tri-Cities."
"I'm very grateful to see all the supporters," added Brett Collins, president of the Tri-Cities Pride Society.
"Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in this…. I think this predates COVID by quite a while. It's the truckers convoy. It's the anti-vaxxers. It's the right wing who need to tap into hate to make their point. I get that times are tough and it’s hard to raise a child, but this?"
But those opposing SOGI learning say they've had enough with what they call "indoctrination" in schools.
With Coquitlam RCMP monitoring the gatherings and directing traffic, the SOGI protesters wrote messages in chalk art around the Pride group, flew Canadian flags and held up mobile phones to record heated conversations with opponents.
"We are here to be the voice of children," said a grandmother pushing a baby stroller.
"Parents shouldn't have to take this. It's confusing for the kids. We are pro life, pro freedom."
And when the anti-SOGI protest migrated to the southern side of city hall, some of the Pride supporters who followed were mocked and ridiculed.
"You're not welcome over here. It's dangerous for you," one woman told them, pointing her finger. "Your friends are on the other side of the building."
At Buchanan Square, men were instructed to form a line to create a protective shield while organizers with bullhorns raised their voices.
"We are here to change the dialogue," one man said while overlooking the crowd by the slide near the RCMP detachment.
"We are here for our bloody children…. We don't want them reading about sex in the classroom or about boys getting blowjobs. Our kids are hearing and seeing these things in our books and from our teachers."
SOGI protesters also spoke against the Bill C-4 legislation, a federal act to amend the Criminal Code for conversion therapy that was adopted by the House of Commons in December 2021, while others talked about the role "Big Pharma" plays in promoting and profiting from gender conversions.
Meanwhile, the City of Coquitlam issued a statement about 1 Million March 4 Children to reaffirm its "unwavering solidarity with the LGBTQ2S+ community."
"We firmly support their right to live authentically, without fear of harassment or hatred," it read.
"The City of Coquitlam remains steadfast in our commitment to championing equity, diversity and inclusion, which are the cornerstones of a welcoming community. We respect the right to peaceful protest, but it is important to emphasize that there is absolutely no place for hate in Coquitlam."