The rally before the rally in Aylmer
AYLMER, ONT. -- Early Saturday morning ahead of the planned 'Freedom March' a small group of counter-protesters lined the main street in Aylmer, Ont. to show their support for their hometown.
"To have a 'super-spreader' event like this come to our home town is very distressing for us," says Sue Helm, a nurse who has lived in Aylmer for 22 years.
Organizer Dain Couture and about two-dozen others stood along Talbot Street in the town of about 7,500 people. Couture held a sign that 'Aylmer- A caring and compassionate community' as he paced Talbot Street receiving numerous honking car horns in support.
He put this event together to show love for anyone who has been affected over the past week.
"It's been hurt and we've been crying," says Couture.
"No one wants to come here and spend their dollars in our restaurants and bakeries. That makes all of us sad as a community."
Everyone at the rally was wearing a mask and they were signing in for contact tracing purposes before being assigned a street corner.
"Aylmer is a safe place to be," says Lori Cowx, one of the co-organizers.
"We have lots of shops, and talented people and we don't want people to be afraid to come to our town."
Cowx and Couture both cited national media stories which have given their hometown negative press.
"Most of us wear our masks, we wash hands, social distance and support our government," says Cowx.
Numerous businesses in town have closed their doors for the day, and some others have decided to shut down during the afternoon when the "Freedom March' is planned.
Studer's Variety locked up between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.
"For the safety of our employees we just decided to close for this 'Freedom March'," says Lynn Plaquet who works at the store.
"We have young people who work at the store and they are afraid. This way we don't have to be confronted or challenged, so we decided to close the door for a few hours."
Organizers were taking donations for the local legion by selling poppies, and collecting for the foodbank.
Among those dropping off goods was Herbert Hildebrandt, son of Church of God Pastor Henry Hildebrant who has been preaching pro-freedom.
"I saw they were accepting donations for the food bank, our family wanted to do their part," says Herbert, who put on a mask to drop off his goods.
"I brought my son, to show him how we get along in Canada even if we disagree. We are still friends were neighbours. I live and employ people in this community. I am not an anti-masker, I'm pro community and pro freedom."
Helm stood at the main intersection of town with a sign that read 'Masks Save Lives'
"The support and turnout today was remarkable," says Helm.
"We just want to support small business and let them know we aren't part of what is happening this afternoon."