About 100 anti-SOGI protesters took to Columbia Street on Wednesday morning, where they were outnumbered significantly by counter-protesters chanting “No space for hate.”
The protests were planned in opposition to SOGI guidelines, which teach inclusion to students on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Many of the anti-SOGI protesters Castanet Kamloops spoke to said they were concerned about kids being taught about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Protestors and counter protestors were largely peaceful Wednesday morning, although some yelling could be heard as arguments broke out. RCMP Cpl. Crystal Evelyn said not major incidents occurred over the course of the protests.
Gina Merke, an anti-SOGI protestor, said emotions were high among protestors on each side, and she hoped more anti-SOGI protestors would have showed up to the rally.
“I think we need more people to come out, they don't realize because it seems to be less of us and I don't know the parents and grandparents are being informed about this,” Merke said.
“I’ve never felt that this was something that meant a lot to me, when I came down and the behaviour of some is just atrocious. I want to cry because I want everybody to love each other the way they are.”
Counter-protestor Mo Branch said they were excited by the turnout of counter protestors, calling it “overwhelming.”
“I feel an overwhelming amount of pride for the Kamloops community coming together to see folks that are queer, folks that are allies all coming together,” Branch said.
“I feel a mix of excitement and pride a little bit of nerves but I feel just overwhelmingly more optimistic seeing the support that we have.”
Around 10:30 a.m., protestors began to head toward the SD73 office on Ninth Avenue, where they gathered outside the front doors.
Anti-SOGI protestor Mark Haupy said he thought children are too young to be taught about sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I don't think that schools should be doing that sort of teaching. And unfortunately, a lot of teachers who are probably on our side are unwilling to speak up through fear,” he said.
“It's really about the kids. I don't even have kids myself — I'm here because of future generations.”
Counter-protestors began to slowly grow in numbers on Ninth Avenue, across the street from the anti-SOGI group standing outside the SD73 building.
“I just think that it's important to protect the queer kids just as much as any other child, when they should have the rights to be who they are just as anyone else,” said counter-protestor Kira Poeschek.
Many critics of SOGI guidelines claim teachers and schools are "grooming" children and pushing homosexual and trans ideas onto them.
School District 73 Supt. Rhonda Nixon told Castanet Kamloops that isn’t the case.
“SOGI is not a dedicated curriculum,” she said. “It’s a set of resources to explore curricular themes and competencies in the physical and health education curriculum.”
According to the B.C. School Superintendents Association, SOGI 123 is a resource kit for educators including ideas about inclusive policies, environments and curriculum resources.
Nixon said no major issues were reported on Wednesday at SD73 schools, a number of which altered schedules to keep students inside while protesters marched nearby.