Frank Dwyer has admired artwork on power poles as he walks around the Sagebrush neighbourhood. Recently, however, new signs have popped up he wants removed.
The signs state: “WAKE UP BC!! COVID-19 IS A LIE. “WE LOVE YOU” and reference the hashtag #WWG1WGA, which is connected to the extremist right wing conspiracy theory known as QAnon.
Travis View is a San Diego-based writer, conspiracy theory researcher and co-host of the podcast QAnon Anonymous. He has written extensively about Qanon and, in a Washington Post article, summed up the fringe movement’s thusly:
“There is a worldwide cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who rule the world, essentially, and they control everything. They control politicians, and they control the media. They control Hollywood, and they cover up their existence, essentially. And they would have continued ruling the world, were it not for the election of President Donald Trump.”
The hashtag #WWG1WGA means “Where we go one, we go all.”
“There are limits to freedom of expression,” Dwyer said. “In times when we’re all being instructed to pull together, consider how your remarks would affect somebody who just lost their mother to COVID-19 or a physician who’s just come off a 14-hour shift at the hospital. … In Canada, we are a much more tolerant people. We are not inclined to be as extreme as our neighbours to the south. I would call it deluded, misguided and insensitive.”
Dwyer counted between 10 and 12 of the signs, which were printed on white computer paper with black, all-caps san-serif font, placed into laminated page protectors and stapled high atop the polls. Dwyer said someone went to quite the trouble to put up the signs, noting it likely took a ladder to staple the signs, which were attached to poles about seven feet from the ground.
“That’s the big question — who’s doing it?” Dwyer said. “I tend to ask neighbours to keep their eye out. It occurred to me the trouble they took, how high. It’s very deliberate, thought out.”
Dwyer reported the signs to the City of Kamloops’ bylaws department and council. He also contacted public health and raised the issue with the Sagebrush Neighbourhood Association board on Thursday night.
“I don’t want them to be seen by someone who has lost a loved one or, even, many frontline workers live in our area,” he said. “Many hospital employees live where we are.”
Having been made aware of the situation, it appears the city is taking immediate action.
City CAO David Trawin said the signs contravene city bylaws and are illegal. He was made aware of them Friday morning and said bylaws officers will be in the area to remove them.
“It’s an illegal sign. You can’t just be posting whatever you want on anything that’s in a public right of way,” Trawin said. “We generally look the other way, with the sign bylaw, generally if people put stuff up on the telephone polls downtown, saying this concert or this thing or that thing. Technically, they’re all illegal. You’re not allowed signs in a public right of way, other than during elections. We mostly look the other way because what’s the point? They have their event and they come down.”
As for whether the city will look into who posted the signs, Trawin said it would be a difficult task.
The signs will be removed. If they were to pop up again, Trawin said they will again be removed. In previous graffiti incidents, Trawin noted people eventually get frustrated and stop.
Dwyer, meanwhile, will continue to wonder who is behind the signs and whether they have turned up in other areas of the community.
He said he and his wife, both in their late 70s, recently received a phone call from a group that asked if he needed help.
“I said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘Well, we’re a Bible group, a Christian group reaching out to people and they did say words to the effect, ‘We love you.’ I said, ‘No thank you.’