Two people – including a man who has been identified as the leader of an extremist group – have been charged after anti-mask protesters gathered outside the home of Nova Scotia’s health chief for three nights this week.
Jeremy Mitchell MacKenzie, 36, of Pictou, NS, and Morgan May Guptill, 31, of Cole Harbor, NS, have each been charged with criminal harassment, misconduct, harassing phone calls and intimidation by a health professional.
The first protest took place Sunday night, hours before Nova Scotia was to lift most of its COVID-19 restrictions.
Dr. Robert Strang was at his home in Fall River, NS, at the time, confronting one of the protesters, who was parked in a car near the driveway of his home around 8:30 p.m.
The protesters brought signs that read “unmask our children” and “stop the mandates.”
While Nova Scotia has revoked mask mandates in most rooms, masks are still required in public schools until mid-April, in line with the advice of a group of pediatric health experts at the IWK Health Center. Masks are also still required in health care, long-term care homes and adult housing centers.
After a brief conversation, Strang took down the license plate of the car and called the police.
RCMP officers temporarily closed the street to Strang’s home to prevent other protesters from gathering at the site.
The RCMP says the protest lasted a few hours and that the protesters left on their own.
Strang told CTV Morning Live during an interview that the protesters also made funny phone calls to his home at 2 a.m. Monday morning.
“I’m not quite sure what point they’re trying to make at this stage of the pandemic,” Strang said Monday morning. “Very unfortunate, and a very small group that I know the vast majority of Nova Scotians have no tolerance for.”
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Health Officer, speaks to CTV Morning Live on March 21, 2022.
Dr. Robert Strang speaks with CTV Morning Live on March 21, 2022.
Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Monday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. They again cordoned off the area and the protesters left after a few hours.
The RCMP says protesters returned to their homes a third time Tuesday night.
No arrests were made outside Strang’s home during any of the protests, but Halifax Regional Police arrested two people “as part of an ongoing investigation into protest activity” on Pleasant Street in Dartmouth, NS, early Tuesday night.
The RCMP told protesters outside the home that two people had been arrested in Dartmouth in connection with the incidents and police say they left the scene.
“These protests were directed at a person and their private residence,” Halifax District RCMP Const said. Guillaume Tremblay in a press release. “The evidence gathered during the investigation gave investigators reasonable cause to believe that criminal acts had been committed.”
MacKenzie and Guptill were remanded in custody overnight. They were due to appear in Dartmouth Provincial Court on Wednesday for a bail hearing, but the case was adjourned until Friday.
Strang declined to comment on the case Wednesday, but the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness issued the following statement on his behalf:
“Dr. Strang would like to extend his sincere thanks to law enforcement for their efforts in relation to the incidents taking place outside his home. As this is now a case in court, he will not comment further,” said Marla MacInnis, media relations adviser for the department.
WHO IS JEREMY MACKENZIE?
According to MacKenzie’s Facebook page, he is a former infantryman with the Canadian Armed Forces.
In his profile, he refers to himself as a veteran, “understandard Podcaster, Sit-Down Comician, Anti-Govt supervillain” and “Very scary.”
MacKenzie has an online presence as “Raging Dissident” on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, where he posts anti-mandate and anti-government content.
He participated in the “Freedom Convoy” protests that took over downtown Ottawa, and posted videos of the event online, encouraging the blockades.
MacKenzie also streamed live from Monday’s protest on his Facebook page. In the video, he criticizes the decision to keep mask mandates in public schools.
“Why did you lift the mandates for everyone else? For everything else? Why is it that my kids and everyone’s kids who are really looking forward to going back to school and not having to mull their faces… why? ” asks MacKenzie from Strang in the video.
“He does not have an answer because he is an idiot. He does not know what he is doing … he is an idiot who does what he is told and he picks up his paycheck and he goes home.”
He goes on to call Strang “mentally ill” and a “compatible puppet for companies and pharmaceutical companies.”
MacKenzie has been identified by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) as the de facto leader of Diagolon in Canada. CAHN identifies Diagolon as an extreme right-wing extremist group.
According to CAHN, MacKenzie is also the source of the term Diagolon, which started as an online joke referring to a fictional nation-state of “sensible” people rejecting the current government and society running diagonally across North America from Alaska to Florida.
MACKENZIE PREVIOUSLY LOADED IN WEAPON FITTINGS
This is not the first time MacKenzie has been in trouble with the law in Nova Scotia.
He was arrested in January after police said they seized several weapons and ammunition from a home in Pictou County.
The Inverness RCMP launched an investigation on Jan. 10 after a video that appeared to show a man waving a gun inside a business was posted on social media. Police say the man also appeared to have a magazine that was overcapacity.
Police determined the incident happened in Whycocomagh, NS, and the investigation led them to a home on High Street in Pictou, NS, where they executed a search warrant on January 26th.
Police say they seized five restricted firearms, including rifles and handguns, an unlimited firearm, banned magazines, ammunition, body armor, a duty belt with attached holster and magazine bags and cell phones during the raid.
According to court documents, MacKenzie faces the following charges in connection with the incident in Whycocomagh and the seizure in Pictou:
- careless use of firearms
- unauthorized possession of a prohibited device
- possession of a prohibited device by knowing that its possession is unauthorized
- possession of a firearm in an unauthorized place
MacKenzie is due to appear in Port Hawkesbury Provincial Court on May 30 to answer these allegations.