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Opinion: New West protest was about disrupting vaccine clinic, not Douglas college ‘arrest’

Health-care workers yelled at
vaccine disgusting anvil
A protest was held Thursday against COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster.

On Friday, I posted a column about local health-care workers being called “disgusting” as they arrived to do their jobs at the Anvil Centre COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

Since then, I have received a lot of feedback on the column – mostly from people opposed to vaccine mandates and the vaccine itself. Yeah, a lot of “fake news” yada, yada, yada oozing into my inbox.

But I also got a really excellent opinion piece by someone who works close to the Anvil Centre. I’m reprinting this opinion below, but the writer has asked that their name not be used due to fears of being targeted by the same group that yelled at health-care workers. I have verified this person and their story and agree that it’s likely not safe for them to have their name printed. I had a recent incident in which a letter writer for one of the other papers I edit was doxxed over their support for vaccinations.

So, here’s what they wrote about the recent protest:

“On Thursday Feb. 3 there was a rally at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster. Officially, this rally was in support of a Douglas College student who was ‘arrested’ for refusing to wear a mask on campus. As such, the choice of the Anvil Centre is a puzzling one, as it is not the main campus of Douglas College (which is two blocks north of the Anvil Centre). Douglas does rent classroom space on a few floors of the tower at the Anvil Centre. But none of the administrators whom one might want to hold responsible for the mask mandate on campus use those rooms. So, why protest at the Anvil Centre? 

Perhaps because the first floor of Anvil Centre is also the site of a large vaccine clinic in New Westminster. And, indeed, the protest did spread out from the side entrance on 8th Avenue that is used by Douglas College students to the main entrance at the corner of 8th and Columbia where the vaccine clinic is housed.  

In short, my suspicion is that this protest chose their position intentionally in order to harass the vaccine clinic. In my most cynical moments, I suspect that the student in question was arrested at Douglas College on purpose in order to provide an excuse for a protest that could be staged in a location that is affiliated with the college and that also has a vaccine clinic in it. I suspect this for two reasons:  

One: the video of the student’s arrest shows the student is prepared to be arrested. They are asking for the police officer’s badge and demanding the officer identify what laws they have broken, and they are filming. This is intentional. The goal is to be arrested and to have the arrest documented to serve as proof for the protest. 

Two: The video of the arrest shows classroom furniture that does not exist in the Douglas College classrooms in the Anvil Centre. Thus, we can conclude that the arrest did not take place in the Anvil Center. This makes the choice to protest at the center, rather than at the main campus, all the more confusing, until you remember that the vaccine clinic is on the main floor of this center. 

Three: On Twitter, discussion in support of the protest has already mobilized the narrative that this had nothing to do with the vaccine clinic. A People’s Party of Canada candidate called out Global News as reporting “fake news” for claiming that the rally targeted the clinic. She asserts that “we were protesting in solidarity of an @douglascollege student who was arrested for not wearing a mask,” and tells Global News that they need to “do better”. 

There is a phenomenon known as ‘astroturfing’ wherein a movement is carefully designed and orchestrated to feel grassroots and organic. It looks grassroots, but it’s not. It’s astroturf. That is what I suspect has happened here. A student intentionally got themselves arrested in order to provide the flimsy justification needed to disrupt a clinic while appearing to protest at Douglas College. And we need to remember that the Anvil Center vaccine clinic is one of only a few clinics in Fraser Health that can vaccinate children ages 5-11.  

Our health-care workers deserve better than this. Our children deserve better than this. So I am asking you to reject any narrative that this was about Douglas College. That is a thin veneer coving the true purpose: to disrupt the vaccine clinic.  

Call your MLAs and MPs and demand that we ensure these clinics are safe and protected from harassment and disruption, and that we fully support our healthcare workers in terms of proper funding, proper PPE and proper mental health. We need them to get through this pandemic. 

And right now, they need us too!”