VIDEO: Hundreds of protesters drown out anti-SOGI speakers in Oak Bay

Protestors took over the Erosion of Freedom event at the Windsor Pavilion event, drowning out the speakers with chanting, songs, bells and more. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Ryan Painter addressed the crowd gathered outside the Windsor Pavilion Thursday night. He organized the counter protest in hopes of “creating a space of inclusion and a space of hope.” (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds rallied against the anti-SOGI program taking place inside the Windsor Pavilion Thursday night. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
A protestor holds a sign outside the Windsor Pavilion Thursday night. More than 200 showed up to counter the evening’s anti-SOGI program, the Erosion of Freedom. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Judith Quinlan is new to Victoria, but said she came to the event to show her support for the trans and LGBTQ+ community here. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Between 200-300 protestors showed up to counter an anti-SOGI event in Oak Bay Thursday night. People chanted, sang and waved LGBTQ+ and transgender pride flags outside the Windsor Pavilion as the event went ahead. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

A little girl in a rainbow-patterned dress skipped through the crowd outside the Windsor Pavilion Thursday night as more than 200 people chanted, “SOGI saves lives” at the group gathered inside.

There might have been picnics, dance music, glitter, face paint and bubbles blowing through the wind, but the crowd wasn’t there to celebrate – they were there to protest the The Erosion of Freedom event, hosted by anti-SOGI speaker Jenn Smith, who speaks against the SOGI 123 (sexual orientation and gender identity) resources taught in B.C. schools. Victoria was the event’s final Vancouver Island stop after hosting in Campbell River, Duncan and Nanaimo.

But since it was announced, the event had been a source of controversy in the community – both towards organizers and the District of Oak Bay, which received backlash for allowing it to go ahead in one its community spaces.

Protest movements cropped up online to counter the evening’s program, including a protest created by Greater Victoria School District trustee Ryan Painter that drew hundreds to the Windsor Pavilion.

“What was coming here to Victoria was something that was not safe, and it was creating a lot of fear,” Painter said. “And I wanted to create a space of love, a space of inclusion and a space of hope, which is what we’ve done here tonight.”

Alex Farquhar, Ashley Moledzki and her wife Natalie sat in camp chairs, holding signs that said, “Trans rights are human rights” and “SOGI is the water that helps people bloom.”

The trio had come out from Langford to protest the event.

“SOGI was something we all needed earlier in life,” said Farquhar. “Honestly if I’d had SOGI 123 I probably wouldn’t have tried to commit suicide.

[Kids] should never have to feel the way we did. If we can make it better for them, then damn right we should.”

READ ALSO: Anti-SOGI 123 speech in Oak Bay won’t be cancelled

READ ALSO: Counter protests crop up in response to tonight’s anti-SOGI event in Oak Bay

Still, the Pavilion was heavy with undercurrents of frustration and anger which eventually bubbled over in the form of tearful and often heated confrontations between event attendees and protesters.

And while the Erosion of Freedom talk went ahead inside a small, hot, upstairs room inside the Windsor Pavilion, the speakers could hardly be heard over the chants, songs and whistles of the protesters filling the room and the field below.

“People like her are the reason my best friend is dead,” shouted one woman, gesturing to Jenn Smith, holding a microphone at the front of the room.

Attendees and organizers railed back at protesters, claiming their right to freedom of speech was under attack.

Attendee Dave Moores said he came “in support of free speech” but that it was too loud to hear anything.

“There was cowbells, fire alarms, a lot of shouting, there was a lot of noise… in an attempt to silence the speaker and not have civil dialogue,” he said.

Moores said he had come to the event for educational reasons.

“I wanted to see what was being spoken about, I wanted to see what the topic of discussion was. I kind of had a summary of what was going to be spoken about, but I didn’t know exactly,” he said, adding that he was not surprised by the protest presence at the venue.

Inside the building, tensions continued to escalate until a fire alarm was pulled. Once the Oak Bay Police and the Oak Bay Fire Department arrived, the building was evacuated and the event was officially over.

For his part, Painter felt the evening was a successful show of support for SOGI 123 and the LGBTQ+ community.

“There were so many people here tonight,” he said. “It shows that the South Island, we’re not about hate. We’re all about love.”

READ ALSO: Oak Bay residents concerned about anti-SOGI event at Windsor Park



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Mad Hatter’s Ball offers laughs in support of Boys and Girls Club

Annual fundraising event features improv performances at McPherson Playhouse May 24

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

SidFest 7 ready to rock the Mary Winspear Centre

The Bankes Brothers and Madrona Drive headlining May 24 concert

Penelakut filmmaker Steve Sxwithul’txw finds success in film and TV

Cop-turned-storyteller reaches back to his past for Tribal Police Files

Choir offers a capella take on Beatles hits

Soundings will perform concerts in Oak Bay and Sidney May 24 and 25

VIDEO: Horseshoe pitching association appeals to Greater Victora youngsters

Youth horseshoe pitching club offers fun for all ages, says GVHPA

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Vancouver Island MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Some of America’s greatest session musicians are coming to the Comox Valley this summer

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

Bucks hammer Raptors 125-103 to take 2-0 playoff series lead

Toronto heads home in a hole after second loss to Milwaukee

Most Read