Another group of protesters, calling themselves Child Abuse Prevention Activists, took to the streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake the past two weekends.
William O’Sullivan is the leader of the group and said he is motivated to speak out because of his own experiences as a child.
O’Sullivan has a Facebook group called “The Sully Movement” which has 1,400 members. The group aims to raise awareness and speak out for survivors of systemic childhood sexual predation and abuse.
“I know it’s an uncomfortable, disgusting subject but because we haven’t talked about it for millennia. This is why we’re in this situation,” he said.
O’Sullivan has also been protesting the diocese of Niagara every Sunday for the past two years outside of St. Kevin’s parish in Welland, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The protests against child abuse started Aug. 22 at the bottom of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls for two Saturdays in a row, followed by two Saturdays in Niagara-on-the-Lake at the corner of Simcoe Park across from the Prince of Wales hotel.
“We came to Niagara-on-the-Lake last week and we weren’t gonna come back here this week,” O’Sullivan told The Lake Report on Saturday.
“The reason why we did is because a lady messaged and said, 'We don’t have children here, why are you coming to our city?' Are you kidding me? That frustrates me,” he said, adding their reason for protesting is to raise awareness.
O’Sullivan is calling for community members to “please write your members of Parliament and let them know that Bill C-15, which is our sexual assault laws in this country, need to change.”
“There’s mandatory maximums in Canada for guns, there’s mandatory maximums for robbery and violent crimes, but there’s no mandatory maximum for raping a child and destroying their life,” he said.
O’Sullivan said he and the Sully Movement are not affiliated with At War for Animals Niagara, the group that regularly protests the horse carriages in Old Town.
“We are a grassroots movement. We have nothing to do with any kind of animals. This is about the children, that’s it, that’s all,” O’Sullivan said.
“We’re all under the belief and the moral standard that when a child leaves the home, it is all of our responsibility out here to look after that child,” he said.
“Why can’t a kid nowadays walk to school with no fear or walk to the playground with his buddy? They don’t do that, they can’t do that anymore. The days of ‘come in when the street lights are on' are over.”
Niagara police were on hand for the group's Sept. 12 protest and at one point let O’Sullivan know people were complaining about his group. He responded, “Good. I’m glad people are complaining.”
“Good, bad or indifferent, we’re getting your attention. That’s what matters,” he said.
NOTL resident Estelle Simons said she agreed child abuse is bad but doesn't like the protests.
“He’s disturbing the peace, disturbing all the people who are having a nice day,” she said. “Listen to the noise he’s making.”
“Why is he protesting pedophiles? Is there any pedophiles in town?”
Simons said she doesn’t understand what the group was trying to achieve.
“What can anybody do? I mean that’s like firing a water gun to put out a fire,” she said. “Unless there’s something specific, what is he achieving?”
“It’s too much between (this and) the anti-horse protestors, I mean go somewhere else. Leave us alone,” Simons said.
“If there was something specific, if there was a petition and (he) could give us some actual data that (he) could do something about. But just yelling and screaming at the street corner, I don’t think it’s achieving anything.”
O’Sullivan’s chants through his megaphone made it clear that those visiting from out of town would see him soon on a street corner in their hometown.
He said he will continue to fight for this cause, telling The Lake Report, “This isn't stopping until I'm ash. And it’ll just be passed on to the next person.”