“I’m here just for the freedom of our kids,”said Kate Serre who said she helped organize the protest on behalf of her grandchildren and their kids.
“We want our lives back,” she added. “This masking is ridiculous in schools; kids want to go back to school, be with their friends, do in-school learning and they’re not allowed to unless they have a mask on.”
Shannon Estabrooks, who was there with her 17-year-old son Glendon and 10-year-old daughter Tessa, insisted that the public health authorities are wrong when they say masks help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
“We shouldn’t be muzzling our children,” she said. “It hasn’t been proven to work, we’ve had more COVID cases and hospitalizations this year with everybody masked and vaccinated, so what’s the point?”
Glendon, a Grade 11 student, echoed his mother’s message.
“I just think it’s time for everyone to stop being scared,” he said. “I think the masks are pointless as my Mom said [and] I think everyone just needs to stop living in fear.”
Glendon said both his social life and his learning suffered when schools were shut down during the pandemic and students shifted to online learning.
“A lot of my courses online, it was a lot more work than it was in person and it was definitely not organized at all.”
Kate Serre, who was wearing a shirt proclaiming “Let Truckers Roll,” said she supports their protests against vaccine mandates including the one in downtown Ottawa.
“It took the truckers to wake people up,” she said to the sound of honking from passing motorists.
“I’ve sent money, I’ve sent people that have taken stuff to them and I hope they stay in Ottawa for another month until this gets resolved.”
Joe Shelby, who has six kids, five of them still in school, said the effects of periodic school lockdowns and other restrictions can be summed up in one word, “Hell.”
“Plain and simple, just hell, yeah,” he added.
Shelby said he was at today’s protest to defend freedom and support kids.
“They shouldn’t have to wear a mask 24/7, they shouldn’t have to be locked in their houses for the last two years, they should have a life.”
When the traffic eased off at the high school entrance, the protesters marched down to Mallard and Main where they spent a few minutes soliciting more honks of support including several from passing truckers.
As they walked back up Main toward the school before dispersing, Rose Leonard spoke about the hardships of the pandemic.
“It’s been an incredibly long two years,” she said.
“Solid marriages are imploding, families are fracturing, friendships are disintegrating and we’re forgetting about the most important thing, which is kids’ mental health and that’s our future,” she added.
“Take yourself back to when you were in school and how there were so many things growing up that you had to adapt to, adjust to, learn about and then throw these mandates, throw masks on, throw the scare of your Granny or your Grampy dying, these kids have enough to deal with growing up.”
Leonard said she recently closed her Pi By Crow food business on Main Street and is returning to her customer base at the Farmers Market.
“I can’t grow a business when you’re constantly being restricted, so it just made no economic sense to stay there,” she said.
When asked if she had anything to add about the protest, she replied that it speaks to people’s desire for change and referred to the latest changes to New Brunswick’s Emergency Act that impose hefty fines on protesters who disrupt the normal flow of traffic on roadways.
“I think it’s spurring a lot of people to come out and speak out and not be afraid,” she said.
Note: The Anglophone East School District e-mailed the following message to parents this afternoon (February 10):