Calgary mayor calls for police to enforce bylaws after protests
Officers collected evidence at the scene and will work with investigators "to review the actions of all parties to determine any potential enforcement.''
By Rob Drinkwater
Calgary’s mayor is calling for enforcement against anti-mandate marches through a downtown neighbourhood after police say approximately 2,000 people took part in opposing protests Saturday.
Jyoti Gondek posted in a series of tweets that the disruption occurring every weekend in the Beltline neighbourhood is a “parade” and not a “protest,” yet it has no permits or licences.
Gondek says the demonstrations aren’t about mandates because those are gone, and adds the “standard response that this will ‘fizzle out’ is ”shameful.”
Police say in a news release that the opposing protests became involved in a confrontation on Saturday, creating a block on 17 Ave. S.E., for more than an hour.
They say officers collected evidence at the scene and will work with investigators “to review the actions of all parties to determine any potential enforcement.”
Gondek says in her tweets that it’s “time to face the fact that this ‘protest’ requires more than ‘crowd control.”’
“Community members standing their ground are not ‘counter-protesters.’ They are people with a right to a safe & welcoming community. And while Council has no formal ability to direct the police or other enforcement bodies, we can be vocal & stand with our fellow Calgarians,” Gondek posted on social media late Saturday.
“Enforcement must stand with the community.”
Alberta’s pandemic vaccine passport was dropped last month and the province lifted its mask requirement for indoor public spaces at the start of March. Calgary immediately followed the province in lifting its masking requirement on March 1, while Edmonton waited a week before removing its own mask rules.
Despite that, weekend protests against pandemic restrictions have continued in both cities. A march through downtown Edmonton on Saturday drew approximately 150 people.
Calgary police said officers worked to keep both sides safe on Saturday, noting it wasn’t easy.
Video of the event showed officers appearing to use their bicycles to push some demonstrators out of the way.
“Our members worked with all parties in attempt to negotiate an alternative that allowed them to peacefully demonstrate, however after receiving limited co-operation and recognizing the volatility of the situation, officers had to take action to avoid further escalation of the crowd and minimize the disruption to nearby residents and businesses,” their statement said.
“We thank the downtown residents and businesses who worked with our officers on scene to ensure everyone’s safety.”
Gondek said that anti-mandate demonstrations at Central Memorial Park have vendors selling food and merchandise, calling the event a “festival.”
“By waiting for this to die out, enforcement agencies have allowed it to grow,” she posted.
“It’s past time to deal with people not following the law.”
Premier Jason Kenney said that police need to balance Canadians’ right to free speech, assembly and protest against the rights of others, and that it’s not up to the province to dictate enforcement.
“I’m not quite sure what the protest is about because Alberta effectively does not have any more health measures,” he said. “They’ve all been lifted some time ago.”
Kenney noted there are still some federal travel restrictions which he said his government thinks are wrong, adding there is a motion in the legislature calling on Ottawa to drop them.
“I would suggest that people could find more productive ways of expressing their frustration,” he said.
“How about we all just move on from the frustration of COVID? How about we leave it in the rear-view mirror?”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2022.
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2022.