ARTHUR – Protesters from across the province descended on Arthur Monday afternoon to decry lockdown closures.
The gathering spot was at Futuristic Fitness on Wellington County Road 109.
Owner Colin Mitchell Hewison said he has decided to keep his business open to members despite a provincial order telling him otherwise.
“This is a decision that I’m sticking with, I just feel a number of establishments are remaining open at this point that are less essential than my own,” said Hewison in a phone interview.
“A lot of this is unconstitutional by design, so that’s why I’ve decided to keep moving forward.”
He noted places like Walmart and fast food places are still operational despite many people coming in and out regularly.
“If you’re talking about the spread of a virus, that’s going to occur at those types of establishments not a gym where I have people sanitizing all day, every day,” Hewison said.
The gym is restricted to members-only access at this time but he acknowledged that this does violate lockdown restrictions.
Hewison said he’s been summoned to court but didn’t elaborate further as he is going through the legal process.
He explained some members of other movements in the Toronto area, such as Hugs Over Mask, wanted to come by and support him, which he agreed to.
Around 2 p.m. on Monday, approximately 30 people began to gather in the parking lot and went in and out of the gym without masks.
Notable attendees included Rebel News, infamous Toronto barbecue restaurant owner Adam Skelly and Hugs Over Mask founder Vladislav Sobolev.
Some held signs protesting masks and the lockdown and many were filming or doing interviews.
Sobolev said in an interview that Hugs Over Masks was originally founded back in May to support ending the first lockdown.
They are also advocating for small businesses like Futuristic Fitness through a new venture called We Are All Essential which is why he said he came out to Arthur from Toronto.
“The business is essential to them to provide livelihood for their families and to be an essential part of the local communities,” Sobolev said.
“As soon as you start marking one business as essential and one as unessential you create a huge division and unfairness in the whole social society.”
Sobolev said in his view, this gathering is okay because public health orders are based on speculation and bad science.
He also noted that politicians going away on vacation meanwhile telling people to stay-home is creating an unequal society similar to one he saw growing up in the Soviet Union.
Hewison said he wasn’t expecting a large gathering, but the turnout was more than he expected as he wasn’t sure if people would come all the way to Arthur from the GTA region.
He stressed that he is remaining open to his members and is confident that COVID is not going to spread at the gym.
“I have regulations in place where each piece of equipment is being cleaned before and after people use them,” Hewison said.
“Far less chance of it occurring here than these establishments that are operational, it’s just that simple.”