The Love Is Louder Than Hate counter-protest had more people show up than the Hands Off Our Kids protesters at Penticton’s Gyro Park Wednesday morning.
The rallies were far apart from each other with the 50 or so One Million March 4 Our Children protesters forming a circle on the grass at Gyro Park.
Around 70 people came out for the counter-protest, many with colourful signs and rainbow flags.
RCMP were present but the two parties did not seem to interact and the rallies remained peaceful.
Two men came closer to the Love rally and held up signs saying “Leave our kids alone” and “Government = Lies: Jesus is the truth.”
The One Million Marches 4 Children took place in communities across B.C. including, Penticton, Keremeos, Princeton, Vernon and Kelowna with the movement encouraging student walkouts on Wednesday.
One Million March for Children is promoted by Hands Off Our Kids, a national organization committed to “advocating for the elimination of the SOGI ‘curriculum’, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in the school.”
The counter-protest, organized by the South Okanagan Similkameen (SOS) Pride is in support of safe, inclusive spaces for trans, 2 Spirit and non-binary children and youth.
“This turnout has been lovely. We have the good tunes on this side and some dancing, which is very indicative of the kind of love you get from this community,” said Chelsea Terry who was there representing the Penticton Art Gallery.
“The Penticton Art Gallery is a rainbow-registered facility where we provide safe spaces for the community.
Christine Shepard was there to support family and friends.
“This large turnout is lovely to see on a cold Wednesday morning where we are on the side of spreading love, not hate,” said Shepard.
Hands Off Our Kids says it has become “concerned that under the umbrella of what is supposedly an inclusive, anti-bullying agenda, SOGI has become a tool that confuses and sexualizes children, leading to their easy exploitation and abuse.”
The One Million marchers took their protest up Main Street and back down Martin, carrying Canadian flags and signs. It didn’t appear that they went past Penticton Secondary.
SD67 Superintendent of Schools Todd Manuel and board chair James Palanio issued a joint statement:
“Our core commitment as a District is to ensure that we support every child and adult to feel welcome for who they are, and that we value their protected human rights. We remain committed as a district to identifying, teaching and eliminating barriers that may compromise the safety and inclusive nature of learning environments to ensure we are creating inclusive spaces for all.
At the counter-protest Loki and their husband who moved to Penticton recently have started a Facebook group called Penticton Pride Social Club to talk about events.
“When we moved here we noticed there wasn’t a Queer community social hub so I started the Penticton Pride Social Club on Sept. 1 and we already have 60 members and growing. I’ve been able to post resource books and information. We want to do more events to help the homeless, youth and any minorities in need,” said Loki.
Penticton City Mayor Julius Bloomfield denounced the One Million March.
The full statement can be found below:
The City of Penticton is proud to be a welcoming and inclusive community.
As an employer, we strive to make our workplaces a safe place for everyone and reject all forms of discrimination.
As a council, we have been steadfast in denouncing all forms of hate whether based on race, religion or gender.
Part of living in a democracy is the ability to peacefully protest and that also allows others the ability to offer a different perspective. Today’s rally and counter-rally touch on sensitive issues.
As mayor, I want to send a clear message: Penticton will always stand for equality and inclusion, for allowing people to be true to themselves.
There is simply no room for ideas, no matter how they are cloaked, that would seek to divide our community.