At the intersection of Commonwealth and Park Avenue in Mount Pearl shortly after noon on Saturday, a group of five yellow vests protesters stood on the sidewalk.
A sign summed up what the group was protesting, with a list that included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, carbon tax, the United Nations Global Compact for Migration, open borders and foreign oil. It added one thing the group supported: pipelines.
On the other side of the street stood two counter-protesters.
They held one sign with an X through the word ‘”racism” and held another sign with the words compassion, kindness and community’
A yellow vest protester on the other side of the street commented on the counter-protesters’ signs.
“They have a great big X through “Racism” on their sign and I thought that’s a great sign because none of us want racism,” said the yellow-vests protester who asked not to be named. “We’re absolutely multicultural here,” she said.
Asked to clarify the Yellow Vests of Newfoundland and Labrador’s views on refugees and immigration with which the counter-protesters took issue, she replied, “That’s not a discussion for today. We’re here today to support the convoy.”
She was referring to the United We Roll pro-pipeline convoy of protesters currently en route to Ottawa.
But across the street, Mount Pearl resident and counter-protester Christine Hennebury was skeptical.
“I think that as individuals they might be against racism, but I think they’ve associated themselves with a movement that’s connected to racism and has done many racist acts,” she said.
“Even on the Facebook page for the local group, they have all sorts of insinuations about refugees and immigrants and about people of colour, and so whether or not they individually believe that, they’ve associated themselves with something that is connected to racism.”
Hennebury said she felt compelled to counter-protest and spread the message that Mount Pearl is “a kind, compassionate community, and that we’re welcoming to everyone.”
In Mount Pearl, yellow vest protestors and counter-protestors stuck to opposite sides of the street on Saturday.
Ken Winsor is an organizer with the Yellow Vests of Newfoundland and Labrador.
At the protest in Mount Pearl, he said the group came out on Saturday in solidarity with the convoy to Ottawa in support of the oil and gas industry and building pipelines.
“Our other issues are for another day,” he said.
Winsor added that on Facebook he was called a racist and a bigot. He said that someone who says that about him does not know anything about him.
“I have tons of friends from Pakistan — I lived in Alberta for 30 years,” he said.
While The Telegram was on scene in Mount Pearl, protesters and counter-protesters stuck to opposite sides of the road.
Another yellow vests protest was planned for downtown St. John’s near the war memorial.
When The Telegram arrived, there were no yellow vests protesters, but there was a group of 10 counter-protesters.
Counter-protester Jolene Murphy said she wanted to attend the yellow vests protest in hopes of creating more dialogue between people.
“There’s no need to be afraid — we’re all awesome people, and the yellow vests don’t know what they’re spreading sometimes,” she said.
“Maybe if they just listened to the minorities in their communities, maybe they’d understand. And that’s all we want. We just want people to understand. We just want people to welcome diversity in our community.”
Also present, Pam Goodyear, said she thinks there is “a lot of fear” amongst yellow vests protesters in this province.
“Just seeing some of the things that have happened on social media within their specific page — seeing some of the dialogue that I have — it is misinformation, and there are a lot of bigoted comments that are happening on there, and when it targets people who are immigrants I think that’s just taking the easy way out — that’s looking for people that you can basically scapegoat.”
This group of counter-protestors said they were “spreading love” – and candy – on Saturday.