Close to three dozen protesters - many carrying signs with slogans disputing mask mandates or questioning public messaging surrounding the pandemic - marched through the southwestern end of Bridgewater, and hosted a "freedom rally" at a town-owned park.
Jessica Schleich co-organized the March 27 "mask-less march," which led to Shipyards Landing where she and two others spoke to rally participants.
The Chester area resident said there is a side of the COVID-19 pandemic issue that it not being fairly heard. "We have to look at the big picture here," Schleich told LighthouseNOW in a phone interview. "Are these lockdowns, restrictions and mandates causing more harm than good?"
Some participants brought signs, while others made their own. They gathered at 1 p.m. at the corner of Old Bridge Street and LaHave Street before heading west across the old two-lane bridge, and south on King Street. They lined up at the park for speeches, and the event ended by 3 p.m.
The Bridgewater Police Service patrolled the rally. The event was peaceful, with no arrests or charges filed. A "small group appeared to follow public health order when police on scene," deputy police chief Danny MacPhee told LighthouseNOW in an email.
Schleich said it was important to raise awareness about businesses that have struggled or were left no choice but to close because of public health restrictions, in addition to other limits put in place on individuals and places of worship. She also said there have been mental health impacts on children and seniors because of government-imposed thresholds, and ordinary health care delays.
Schleich was tired of watching from the sidelines for a local rally, so she championed one on her own. More events are coming, she said.
The South Shore Freedom Rally was an unfortunate occurrence, according to Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health.
"It is disappointing to see a small number of people protesting efforts to keep each other safe and healthy," he said in a statement released to LighthouseNOW by the province in response to an inquiry about the Bridgewater event.
"By and large, Nova Scotians have done an admirable job adhering to public health protocols and I am proud of the way we have all looked out for each other throughout the pandemic," said Strang.