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5 arrested at tense faceoff between group protesting ‘gender ideology’ and counter-demonstrators

Five people were arrested Friday on Ottawa’s Broadview Avenue, where hundreds of protesters gathered to “choke” and confront a man protesting what he called “gender ideology.”

The two groups chanted slogans such as “protect trans rights” and “leave the kids alone” at each other, sometimes separated by lines of police.

Three schools and a medical center are located along or near Broadview Avenue, where the demonstration was held.

On one side was Chris Elston, a man who travels around the country sharing his concerns about whether transgender children may consent to hormone blockers that delay the signs of puberty, and roughly 200 of his followers.

He carried a sandwich board that said “kids can’t consent to puberty blockers” and carried the same slogan when he visited the school back in 2021.

On the other side was a slightly larger group of more than 200 counter-protesters who had come to “smother the hate” in response to Elston’s “Education Over Indoctrination” march.

Their signs read “protect trans youth” and “refuse to be your child’s first bully”.

A man stands with a sign.
A protester stands with a sign on Broadview Avenue Friday. (Joe Tunney/CBC)

“Part of the reason we’re protesting in public spaces is to show them that we’re outnumbered, that their opinions are not only vile, they’re a minority,” said Emily Quayle, who helped organize the counterprotest and is the Broadway Public parent of a school student.

“And if we don’t, if we allow them to occupy public space, they’re free to spread that rhetoric and recruit more people.”

Elston told CBC News that the counter-protesters didn’t bother him, but he felt that “parents need to understand what they’re teaching their kids.”

“I’m not here to have a conversation with them,” Elston said, referring to the counter-protesters. “You have to be willing to get the message out and have an open dialogue. These people don’t want to do that.”

Earlier in the week, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) asked the two groups to move to their respective gatherings, stressing that “schools are for learning and should not be targets for political protests.”

Meanwhile, Ottawa Center MP Joel Harden spurred the counter-demonstration, tweeting that it was important to “show queer and trans youth that we stand with them.”

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe tweeted Friday afternoon that protests like the one on Broadview Avenue “must not be allowed to disrupt children and their education.”

“Schools should be a safe space for children to learn and grow, not a target for political protest,” the tweet reads.

A line of policemen on bicycles is standing.
The police formed a line to separate the two groups of protesters. (Joe Tunney/CBC)

Police tweeted early afternoon that five people had been arrested, but did not provide further details about the arrests.

Along with the arrests, Ottawa police closed a section of the street, which was later reopened.

In an email, an OCDSB spokesperson said schools should not be targeted for political protests and thanked parents and police for their support during the demonstration.

“Hate is not welcome here. 2SLGBTQ+ students, staff and community members please know that you belong and deserve to feel welcomed and accepted for who you are,” the letter reads.

Among the crowd of protesters was OCDSB Board of Trustees Chair Lyra Evans, who felt it was important to attend despite the school board’s announcement earlier in the week.

Evans felt the demonstrations were far enough away from the board’s two schools.

“It’s really important that LGBTQ people see themselves represented at the protests,” said Evans, who is transgender.

“It’s really important to show up at community events and show that the people in power haven’t lost the ability to show up to support the community.”

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