An expert on extremism and political radicalization said a disturbing protest outside the British Columbia legislature this week reflects a disturbing trend.
The premier of British Columbia and two high-ranking ministers were hanged in effigy in front of the province’s legislature during a rally organized Thursday by opponents of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The event was billed as a “sunset candlelight ceremony” to mark the 75th anniversary of the trial of Nazi scientists who conducted horrific human experiments on Jews and other regime targets. Seven of these doctors were executed for war crimes.
Speakers addressed what they called the erosion of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as part of the COVID-19 response, and touted ivermectin, a dewormer drug that health officials have challenged. guard as a treatment for the virus.
Protesters in the crowd carried signs with messages reading “voluntary consent”, “medical choice” and “COVID crimes against humanity”.
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The claim that the COVID-19 vaccine is in fact an “experiment” and therefore runs counter to the code of medical ethics developed during the Nuremberg trials has gained popularity among opponents of the COVID policy. month.
Thursday’s effigy consisted of figures clad in white protective suits with the faces of Prime Minister John Horgan, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth hanging around their necks. A fourth character, with an orange balloon protruding from his face, was not clearly visible in the images reviewed by Global News.
rally spokesperson and Middle ground Publisher Joseph Roberts said those displaying the hanged effigies were not invited to the event.
“We tried to evict them, but they were unwilling to move… and we also spoke to security. Did security come to take them away? No, they didn’t, ”he said. “It had nothing to do with the essence and what the organization had in this event.”
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The otherwise peaceful crowd of several hundred heard speeches by Brian Peckford, former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Dr Daniel Nagase, a doctor who claims to have been discharged from a hospital in the Alberta for promoting ivermectin, lighting candles and singing ‘O Canada’ against the backdrop of figures hanged on the steps of the Legislative Assembly.
Victoria Police could not immediately confirm whether they were investigating the display of the effigy.
The British Columbia government has not made someone available for an interview for the story, but Attorney General David Eby issued a statement calling the posting “unacceptable.”
“Implicit or actual threats of violence are totally unacceptable,” he said.
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“One of the things that makes Canada and British Columbia such a great place to live is that we can strongly disagree without threatening each other’s safety. When people cross that line and move on to threats and physical intimidation as a political tactic or for any other reason, it’s up to all of us to speak out against this threat to everyone’s quality of life. “
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Edwin Hodge, a sociology professor at the University of Victoria and an expert on radicalization and extremism, said he was skeptical that the effigies were not part of the protest.
“These effigies were not only on the sidelines of the rally, they were behind the scene. It stretches, let’s just say it, it puts a strain on gullibility, ”he said.
Hodge said the event itself, which focused on the Nuremberg trials and the executions of Nazi war criminals, was in itself disturbing.
He pointed to a page promoting the event in the alternative publication Middle ground – listed as a sponsor of the event – which made a direct link between the execution of Nazi doctors and the actions of current politicians and medical officials.
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“The first sentence of their article is that the Nuremberg doctors were tried and executed for their atrocities. This subtext is not quite underlying, ”Hodge said.
“So you have the effigy hanging, you have an explicit statement [that] the doctors who carried out these atrocities were put to death. And then in the few sentences that follow, an explicit link between contemporary doctors who perform vaccinations and these Nazi war criminals. “
Roberts denied that the event or article promoting it in any way advocated violence against public officials.
“I am not asking for the execution of his government,” he said, adding that the purpose of the rally was to draw attention to what he believed to be vaccine coercion and erosion of human rights. the chart.
“The government has slowly eroded them, they focus more on the loopholes than on the spirit of the law,” he said.
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Hodge said the display of the effigy was the latest sign of a disturbing shift towards violent language and imagery in political movements in recent years.
British Columbia health worker Dr Bonnie Henry said she was forced to hire security guards amid threats of violence, and in July 2020 a gunman in Manitoba was arrested after entering the grounds of Rideau Hall allegedly trying to speak to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and send him a message.
In 2019, at the height of the “yellow vests” protests, Facebook was forced to take action after multiple incidents of people threatening violence against the Prime Minister.
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The same year, a radio host from Kamloops, British Columbia, surrendered to the RCMP after receiving a torrent of threats after he introduced an extremism researcher talking about the growing ‘murder fetishization’ online. .
Hodge said the public should not reject the introduction of violent language and imagery into political protests, which may have the power to inspire actual violence.
“Rhetoric precedes action, doesn’t it? So the first thing that happens in a lot of these movements is dehumanization and not just defamation, but almost seeing the adversary as evil. “
“And that acceptance is where things get very, very dangerous, because once you vilify your opponent to the point of pretending he’s bad, and once you start saying things [such as] the doctors of today are just like the Nazi doctors of old ”and they’ve been executed, what’s next, he asked.
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