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Victoria mayor calls for respect at Island convoy, following reports of hate speech, harassment

Flauting of public health orders was common during Jan. 29 protest against vaccine mandates
Thousands filled the grounds of the B.C. legislature and nearby streets Jan. 29 for a demonstration against pandemic-related mandates in Victoria. An Island convoy is due to land at the same place Saturday (Feb. 5) at 11:30 a.m. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria’s mayor is calling for respect to be shown, with another vaccine mandate protest convoy due to arrive in the city Saturday morning (Feb. 5).

Lisa Helps released a statement Friday acknowledging people’s democratic right to gather and express their views. But with the city receiving reports about hateful language being used by participants in the Jan. 29 protest at the legislature – and a manager of a nearby cafe saying protesters verbally harassed his staff – Helps also sent a stern message to those taking part in tomorrow’s gathering.

“Emails from residents and businesses in the wake of last weekend’s protests show that some of the people involved in the protests went beyond the right to peacefully gather and infringed on the well-being and safety of others,” she wrote.

Complaints ranged from protesters using racist and anti-Semitic language and egging residents’ signs that showed support for health-care workers, to violating public health orders inside local businesses.

“Victoria is a welcoming and inclusive city. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable,” Helps said. She asked those taking part in the upcoming protest to respect the city’s values, not promote hate, or put “already struggling and much-loved local businesses at further risk.”

READ: Thousands gather at B.C. legislature against pandemic mandates

READ: GoFundMe removes Freedom Convoy fundraiser, says protest has ‘become an occupation’

Rich Becker, manager of the Steamship Grill and Bar as well as the Starbucks across from the legislature, said people were being “rude and aggressive” towards his staff while demanding service.

“They were really going after my manager,” he said. “She’s not going to deal with that and she shouldn’t have to.

“The other staff was very scared … they’ve got these two big dudes trying to look big and scary, trying to be all aggressive and saying they’re going to bring back 100 guys.”

The men left as Becker called 911. However, after requesting a police visit twice, the dispatcher told Becker nobody would respond.

“Based on the situation the caller was describing, a police file should have been created,” an E-Comm spokesperson told Black Press Media Friday. “This was not the case and the caller was incorrectly referred to the non-emergency line.”

E-Comm said it understands any frustration regarding the incident and Becker did the right thing by calling 9-1-1 to report the incident.

By 1 p.m., the Starbucks was inundated with people demanding service and saying they weren’t going to wear masks, Becker said, adding he was only following guidelines he didn’t make. He locked the doors shortly after, but continued to serve the occasional customer who wore a mask and respectfully asked for coffee.

Sydney Nicholson-Mieras, a barista who works at a different coffee shop near the legislature, said many people were entering without masks on Saturday. She said customers seemed ready to argue if they weren’t served. One person also brought their dog into the coffee shop.

“That was another thing where I had to put my foot down.”

Becker’s businesses will be open Saturday and he hopes people are courteous and have a peaceful protest on the weekend.

“Hopefully some people come down that don’t mind wearing a mask for 30 seconds while they order a coffee.”

A poster for the so-called Island Convoy lists a 6:30 a.m. start from Campbell River and an 11:30 a.m. arrival at the legislature.

Victoria police said officers will be at the legislature to ensure public safety. VicPD has also temporarily installed CCTV cameras in the areas and warned that traffic disruptions are likely.

READ: Demonstrators take to Sooke streets against pandemic-driven mandates

READ: Thumbs-up gesture opens door to question Victoria police officer’s neutrality: UVic researcher Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.