The political links between racism and COVID-19 vaccination protests | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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The political links between racism and COVID-19 vaccination protests

Kelowna protestor Bruce Orydzuk was seen yelling at this security guard Tuesday, July 13.

When a COVID-19 conspiracy theorist protester began hurling racist remarks at a Sikh security guard this week, many people across the country were shocked, but it shouldn't have been much of a surprise.

Kelowna has long held anti-mask rallies led by David Lindsay, who has ties to a white supremacist Paul Fromm. At least one prominent speaker at the rallies has rapped about being a Proud Boy, an organization on Canada's list of terrorist organizations. Across the country, in Saskatoon, anti-maskers flew a flag bearing Odin's cross, a Nazi and white supremacist symbol, according to CBC.

A UBC social psychologist says there's overlap between the anti-mask and anti-vaccination camps with overt racism.

“The biggest demographic predictive factor for anti-mask and anti-vax attitudes is political," Azim Shariff said. "You see this especially in the U.S. but of course the U.S. exports their political polarization attitudes here.”

Of course, not everyone who has anti-vaccination or anti-mask attitudes is going to be racist nor vice versa.

READ MORE: Protestor unleashes racist tirade at Kelowna vaccination clinic security guard

Political conservatives tend to be vastly overrepresented in these anti-mask, anti-vaccination groups, Shariff said.

On the political spectrum, both left and right wing groups have anti-science, anti-expert areas but these particular pandemic protesters tend to fall within conservative camps, he said.

“Nobody likes having their autonomy and freedom infringed upon but there are individual differences in terms of how much people dislike it. Some people really dislike it and react very angrily when people try to take it away from them and those people tend to be more conservative, which is not surprising, given that conservatives tend to be higher on the desire for freedom and they tend to be more anti-government-type control.”

Again, that isn't to suggest people with conservative views are anti-maskers or racist, just common themes based on core beliefs. 

Beliefs about masks, reporting of COVID-19 and the safety of vaccinations is also determined by the media one consumes and the people one surrounds themselves with, he said.

READ MORE: RCMP investigating potential hate crime after racist remarks made towards Kelowna security guard

People tend to stay within information bubbles that are similar to their beliefs. The media bubble that is advancing anti-restrictions and anti-vaccination attitudes tends to be conservative and since those advancing racist beliefs are often conservative or far-right media outlets, these beliefs tend to overlap, he said.

“I remember the rallies that were happening in downtown Vancouver where I live and it was this consultation of seemingly unrelated positions but you can see how they’re related. So there’s this anti-vax and anti-mask people (you can see) were related but then you have Trump, Pence flags, in Vancouver after the election… and it’s because of this type of connection.”

Shariff stressed it is a small vocal percentage of the population that have these anti-COVID-19 restrictions or anti-mask beliefs.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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