A few hundred protesters gathered at Barrie City Hall this morning to voice their concerns about school policies surrounding matters such as gender identity and parental consent on issues dealing with sexuality.
But they were also met by a smaller group of counter-protesters who were equally as loud, chanting their own slogans in defence of topics such as transgender rights.
The Barrie protest was part of a series of larger events across Canada, including Ottawa, as thousands of people gathered.
The local protest began at 9 a.m., with a trailer set up as a stage near the Mulcaster Street sidewalk with the name of the event, 1MillionMarch4Children. Speakers addressed the crowd from the makeshift stage.
"It’s wonderful to see all the parents and their children here to support the fact that our education system is faltering in what they are teaching our children," one protester told BarrieToday at the event.
The counter-protest was made up of LGBTQ supporters holding signs and bullhorns, attempting to drown out the opposing voices.
One counter-protester said he came to city hall to provide an opposing view.
"The right side of the alley keeps insisting that we are forcing our ideals and gender sexuality onto children, but the only ones who are involving children are the right, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s not right," he said.
At times, the demonstration became heated, as the two sides argued in close quarters with one another many times over the course of almost three hours.
There were a few minor incidents with anger boiling over, followed by some pushing and shoving, but cooler heads prevailed on both sides as the situation calmed down.
“There were protests and counter-protests that occurred at city hall today, as they did across the country," City of Barrie CAO Michael Prowse said in a statement provided to BarrieToday. "Security guards were on site as normal. However, police did need to be called to assist.”
The initial protest had been advertised ahead of time on social media. A handful of police officers eventually stepped in between the shouting protesters on both sides.
"Barrie police was aware of the planned gathering at city hall and were on scene from the outset," said Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon.
There were no arrests related to the event, he added.
"The Barrie Police Service respect the right to peaceful protest and today we had officers on scene monitoring the situation to ensure the safety of the participants and anyone else who was in the immediate area," Leon said.
At around 11:30 a.m., the demonstration shifted into a march that saw the protesters walk from city hall, along Mulcaster Street to Worsley Street, and then south along Bayfield Street and onto Lakeshore Drive near the waterfront. They waved flags and signs while chanting slogans.
The counter-protesters followed closely behind them for part of the walk, doing the same, before heading back to city hall to continue with their speeches.
By 12:30 p.m., Wednesday, the numbers of demonstrators dwindled to just a few dozen people before the protests ended.