Observations of the Kelowna1 Million March 4 Children Demonstration

I had this unexpected adventure at a protest in downtown Kelowna’s Stuart Park, and it got me thinking. While I had a good time, I’m not entirely sure I should do it again.

You’re probably now familiar with the 1 Million March 4 Children as demonstrations were held globally, and widely reported on, on September 20th.  It was framed as a demonstration against Sexual Orientation and Gender Inclusivity in schools. Isn’t that wild? The protestors insisted that their demands had nothing to do with the LGBT+ community, yet they were officially against Sexual Orientation and Gender Inclusivity. I’ve since read some reviews by various newslets and I am impressed how no matter the location of this widely dispersed protest they seemed to consistently report that the protestors were not very clear on what they were protesting about.  This was especially the case in Kelowna

Here’s the twist. I had no intention of attending this protest. I knew there was a march happening that I would like to oppose, but previous protest experiences, filled with endless shouting matches, had left me feeling unproductive and annoyed. So I had no real urge to participate, but fate had other plans. I was biking to work, passing Stuart Park when I spotted a substantial gathering. “Oh, right,” I thought, “there’s a march today. This must be the counter protest. Wow, that’s a big one! Oh, wait. There’s just a little group with rainbow flags in the corner. Oh, no.”

That’s when I got roped in. I was off my bike; my woke, leftist, social justice warrior symptoms were flaring up; and I marched right onto the stage. … To be clear, nothing cool happened. The presenter’s stage was set in the middle of a staircase, and there were counter protestors from the local LGBT+ community at the top platform. So, I simply kept walking and joined them. Surprisingly, neither the speaker nor security batted an eye as I brushed past them.

So, I found my people, the speaker had just welcomed the crowd, and everyone had taken out their cameras and were defensively pointing them at each other, daring anybody to make too bold a move. The speaker led with a big “I love you” to everyone, including the counter protestors, emphasizing that their protest’s only goal was just to protect the kids. Meanwhile, the counter protestors were already jeering, and I was caught up in it. “Protect the kids from those you claim to love?” Way too many syllables; my counter message wasn’t getting through, but I didn’t want to resort to booing and attempting to overpower the sound system.  Like literally everyone there, I was curious about what their actual message was going to be.

Then, totally catching me off guard, the speaker said “let’s pray.” Pray? Here? To who? For what? “Dear our Lord Jesus…” Seriously? In a public gathering of diverse individuals from various backgrounds and ethnicities, they evoked the colonial god of capitalism without a second thought, effectively declaring alignment with history’s greatest oppressor. I was triggered, and I felt the urge to respond in a way that mirrored their inconsideration. It might have been a low-hanging fruit, but the easy answer was clear. Thumb to middle fingers, index and pinky up. Horns to the sky and a quick chant of “Hail Satan!” Yeah, I felt silly, and realized I needed to calm down.

All in all, it was a fun time. I had a fantastic view of the event, made an ass of myself, bonded with friends, and scolded my social adversaries. But I can do that at pretty much any event, what should I actually be doing at a protest?  Especially this protest.

The climax for me was when one of the speakers went off about vaccines. I yelled into the crowd, “Did you know you came here to protest vaccines?”. They ignored me (they totally heard me, I swear), still, it became clear that they did in fact come to protest vaccines. The whole crowd erupted in enthusiastic support of the speaker. That’s when it hit me. This was the same protest that occupies this location nearly every weekend. I knew it was the same organizers, but I wasn’t expecting the exact same crowd. That’s why they couldn’t articulate what they were specifically protesting. It didn’t matter. For the organizers it’s become a career of inciting emotions and soliciting donations.  For the crowd it’s a social outing fueled by self-righteous ignorance.  By interacting with them I’ve validated their actions as worth noticing, and they are all the more likely to come back with renewed vigor as if they’d made some kind of progress. Lame.

I clearly have a lot in common with this group of chalky regressives who think they’re saving the world by being loud and obnoxious.  I recognize that it might be problematic how I wrote this story with no significant mention of the transgender community which is most affected by the agenda of this event, but this is my experience as it happened through my eyes.  I can’t accurately tell the story from the view of the diverse people whom I stood beside, but I can acknowledge that many of them have since taken to the internet to express how hopeless and isolated these protests make them feel.  That makes it tricky to draw a clear lesson from this experience.

Overall, protests like these are feeding a group of bullies and they get worse the more they are fed, but as an ally it’s not purely up to me to decide whether the opposition should starve or bite off more than it can chew.  I don’t regret being impulsive on that day, it is genuinely important to be available to vulnerable populations in public confrontations, but I didn’t need to feed the beast as much as I did.  So I’m going to be more cautious about how I interact in protests. Plus, if I’m genuinely supporting my LGBT+ friends in my private life maybe less and less of them will feel so hopeless when the bullies crave another spectacle.

By Saturday S.