Despite high tensions, there was no violence when the latest anti-COVID “freedom” rally in Vernon was met with a counter-rally Saturday, Oct. 8.
Saturday’s freedom rally was the first since Vernon counter-protester Korry Zepik claimed he was assaulted by a member of the rally last weekend.
Roughly 50 people with the freedom rally stood in their usual spot near the Polson Park fountain, where Highway 97 meets 25th Avenue, while on the other side of the intersection a smaller group of people stood in solidarity with Zepik.
Members of the Vernon RCMP were also in attendance and could be seen monitoring the rallies in the parking lot near the fountain.
In contrast to last week — when Zepik alleges he was pushed into traffic and had his head smashed against the pavement — Zepik said this week’s demonstrations were “entirely peaceful.”
That isn’t to say Saturday’s rally was without intimidation. Zepik said when he arrived early to the Polson Park fountain corner, rally-goers started to “swarm” him, blocking his path with their signs.
Darren Seymour, a member of the freedom rally crowd, had a different version of last week’s events. He said Zepik instigated the scuffle with one of the rally goers that resulted in Zepik going to hospital with injuries to his head.
“I believe that his purpose was to come here and to provoke and aggravate, right from day one,” Seymour said.
Seymour claimed it was Zepik who he saw throw punches first last week, adding that Zepik blared his air horn at the crowd, hurting the ears of some elderly rally-goers.
Vernon council candidate Patrick Vance was at the rally, positioning himself amongst the freedom rally crowd with a sign that read ‘Have dignity.’ He said he was there in support of Zepik.
“I’m here to show solidarity that we don’t need violence or oppression, especially when people are purporting to express freedom,” he said.
Vance referenced the incident last week in which a rally-goer attempted to spray paint over one of Zepik’s signs.
“Everybody that I’ve spoken to here is very uncomfortable when I ask them why it’s OK to spray paint Korry’s signs when they want to purport that freedom is the most important thing, and it doesn’t get more free than freedom of expression,” he said.
Asked why he’s still at the rallies despite being injured last week, Zepik said he’s “trying to bridge the gap between paranoia and reason.”
“There’s just far too much hate going on and I blame an awful lot of that on internet fear mongering,” he said.