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Kelowna  

Hundreds travel from across region to see prominent anti-mask, anti-vaccine leader speak in Kelowna

Fans mob anti-mask leader

A crowd of a few hundred people gathered in Kelowna’s Stuart Park Thursday evening to greet one of North America's most prominent conspiracy theorists and a national leader of the anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement.

Chris Saccoccia, better known as Chris Sky, is leading rallies in communities between Vancouver and Thunder Bay during what he’s calling a “Freedom Convoy” between April 22 to 26.

The cross-country tour has sparked outrage during a time of travel restrictions and surging COVID-19 case counts. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe called Saccoccia’s planned stops in his province “highly inappropriate" and asked him to stay out of the province.

The charismatic Saccoccia was mobbed as a celebrity as he wandered the crowd in Stuart Park while live streaming on Twitch to more than 1,000 people.

“I heard Kelowna is the protest capital of B.C.,” he declared on the stream, prior to greeting a couple who said they drove eight hours from Prince George to meet Saccoccia. Others came from throughout the BC Interior for the event.

Saccoccia gave hugs, took selfies and signed autographs for fawning fans. One man handed him a bag of masks to burn while others asked how to join the convoy, which Saccoccia claims has grown to hundreds of people.

“Now is the time we have to push back,” he told the cheering crowd, railing against restrictions.

“It’s all about control,” he continued, urging the crowd to not give into “medical tyranny” while spouting falsehoods about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“We have the numbers now,” he said, urging businesses in particular to unite and refuse to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.

Ryan Scarpino of Dynamic Tattoo Studios in Kelowna took the stage beside Saccoccia to declare masks are not required at their studio on Bernard Avenue. A woman who said she owns a barber shop in Lake Country took the microphone to announce masks were not being worn in her business.

“Not complying is the only way to stop this,” he said, urging the crowd to go shopping indoors without masks.

Saccoccia has made headlines for video stunts showing him berating grocery store staff trying to enforce mask rules.

Earlier this month Instagram banned Saccoccia from the platform for spreading “harmful vaccine misinformation and content promoting widely debunked hoaxes.” He had upwards of 250,000 followers before his account was deleted.

He has been placed on Canada’s no-fly list after several anti-mask incidents in airports and on aircraft and was charged last year with violating the federal Quarantine Act. Toronto Police charged him in January with common nuisance and four counts of public mischief after “several large gatherings” in the city.

Last week, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network published a report on Saccoccia, highlighting past anti-semitic and holocaust-denial related comments, as well as racism targeting Blacks and muslims and homophobia.

A single RCMP cruiser was in attendance watching over the event.

When contacted for comment prior to the rally, the City of Kelowna said it "urges people to respect the public health orders, which include limiting travel to essential trips, wearing a mask and keeping a safe physical distance from each other."



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