The organizer of an anti-SOGI123 rally in Vancouver Monday said she invited members of the Hells Angels to attend.
“We invited the Hells Angels, we invited anybody who has children and who has a stake in education that is opposed to SOGI is welcome to stand with us,” said Kari Simpson of the Culture Guard group.
She said some accepted the invitation and attended.
“They’re also fathers, and mothers, and they don’t often get involved in these things,” said Simpson, who is based in Langley. “We’ve had their support in the past when we’ve helped their members with child apprehensions years ago.”
“Parents are parents and everybody has a stake in education,” Simpson said.
“They give really good protection, unlike the VPD [Vancouver Police Department],” she added.
The VPD was not aware of any Hells Angels attending the event, said Const. Jason Doucette, a media spokesperson for the department.
A pro-SOGI protester from Langley said she and her fellow rally members didn’t spot anyone wearing Hells Angels colours or clothing at the rally.
“I find that really alarming,” said Stacey Wakelin, a parent who has been among the organizers of local pro-SOGI events.
She said the presence of Hells Angels members won’t stop her from attending future rallies.
“I’m past the point of being afraid,” Wakelin said.
However, she worried what effect it could have on others, particularly vulnerable people in the LGBTQ community.
SOGI stands for sexual orientation and gender identity.
SOGI 123 was introduced as a pilot project last year and was rolled out B.C.-wide in September. According to the program’s website, it provides tools for teachers to create inclusive classrooms where students of all sexual orientations and gender identities feel safe.
The program has generated controversy, and pro- and anti-SOGI rallies have been held in Langley and other Lower Mainland communities.
Rallies were held Monday in Vancouver and Victoria, with each side represented.
“It was truly diverse, unlike the other side,” Simpson said, citing the participation of Sikh and Muslim anti-SOGI protesters.
Also among those taking part were the controversial Soldiers of Odin. The group is an offshoot of an anti-immigrant group in Europe. The Canadian offshoots say they do not share an ideology with the European groups, and accept people of all origins.
However, they have clashed with anti-racism demonstrators locally, with three Soldiers of Odin arrested by the VPD in March of 2017 following a scuffle with marchers organized by the Pacific Coalition Against Bigotry.
Simpson dismissed concerns about the group.
“I think those are probably overplayed, like us being called a hate group,” she said.
- with files from Black Press Digital