Jason Soul / Edge columnist
As most of the people in the world became more cautious and protective to stay safe from the coronavirus, there are groups of people or organizations that believe in not wearing masks. Those people are called anti-maskers and they protest without wearing any physical distancing or face masks.
Ever since the pandemic, there has been many protests and riots among the anti-maskers in many different locations. Recently, there was an anti-mask rally in Kelowna with over 250 protesters violating the public health orders and endangering the local residents.
Although the RCMP has warned them not to join them, the protest was still held with people carrying signs that read “Freedom is essential” and “My rights don’t end where your fears begin.”
At the same event, there was a small group that confronted the anti-mask protesters, gathered across the street with signs that said “Yay science! Yay vaccines!” They were counter-protesters and they wanted to let the anti-protesters know that what they were doing wasn’t right.
“This is the reason we didn’t have Christmas,” said counter-protester James Munson. “I wasn’t able to see my family and I think we should have more restrictions,” he said.
As a result of the anti-mask rally that contravened provincial public health orders related to COVID-19, the organizer of the protest was fined $2,300 by the Kelowna RCMP.
“We are reiterating to the public that the provincial public health orders are not optional,” the superintendent of Kelowna RCMP, Kara Triance said in a statement. “Vaccinations are being rolled out across our province. Please dig deep and find the courage to remain safe and calm.”
The main reason why there are groups against wearing facial masks is psychological reason. There is psychological evidence by the European Journal of Social Psychology that people express moral righteousness – act from an outraged sense of justice – when they are uncertain and afraid. When people are anxious, they often try to regain composure by clinging strongly to their moral norms.
Even though there has been scientific research proving that the virus is real and wearing a mask can reduce the risk of transmitting them, they have doubts about the growing body of scientific knowledge around the virus, opting for cherry-picked and unverified sources of information found on social media rather than traditional news sources.
During the interview by Vox, Amy, a 48-year-old mother of two explained how she became a part of anti-mask protesters. When the COVID-19 began, she always made sure that she wore a mask and even made masks for her neighbours. However, the turning point was when the government announced the extension of the lockdown. From that point, Amy became vehemently anti-mask and began to doubt whether the coronavirus was really that big of a deal.
“It’s a violation of my freedom, I think, and then also I just don’t think they work,” Amy said. “A lot of stuff says it does, but then some doesn’t.”
What people really need to be doing right now is to follow the health guidelines and the protocols of the government until the vaccines are widespread. People that are expressing the need for freedom and protesting for their right in public is not only violating the rules of the public health laws but also endangering people around them, which will only worsen the situation.