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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘We thought it was an earthquake,’ homeowners okay after tree falls

Mature tree falls on roof of Victoria Avenue house

Hydro pole fire closes portion of Metchosin Road in Colwood

Motorists are advised to avoid the area of Metchosin Road near Royal Bay

Saanich roads doused in more than 300 tonnes of salt during snowstorm

Crews cleared roads around the clock during the mid-January storm

Strong winds expected in Greater Victoria Friday evening

Winds are expected to ease Saturday morning

VIDEO: The Victoria byelection leads a selection of today’s news stories

A selection of Greater Victoria top stories for Jan. 17

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

One last blast of winter tonight for parts of the Island before temperatures on the rise

A snowfall warning is in effect Friday including east Vancouver Island.

POLL: Has the recent snow had an impact on your daily life?

Old Man Winter had Greater Victoria in his icy grip this week.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

Most Read