NW Week

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Protesters clash in downtown Calgary during weekly anti-health measures rallies

Weekly rallies against health-care reforms in downtown Calgary have erupted in violence.

Key takeaways:

  • Residents of the Beltline who were fed up with the government’s COVID-19 health measures gathered at a downtown intersection.
  • Every Saturday, thousands of protesters converge on Central Memorial Park downtown to demonstrate against COVID-19 health measures.
  • The rally was diverted down a side street by officers on the scene, and the confrontation lasted nearly 20 minutes.

On Saturday, frustrated Beltline residents and those protesting the govt’s COVID-19 health measures met at a downtown intersection.

Nearly 50 counter-protesters stood throughout 17 Avenue S.W. in a tense scene as the protest, dubbed the Calgary Freedom Rally, marched toward them, forcing Calgary police officers to divide the 2 groups.

Thousands of protesters flock to Central Memorial Park in the city’s downtown every Saturday to rally against COVID-19 health measures. The protest is followed by a march through the neighborhood’s streets.]

According to Global News, Calgary Police estimate that around 1,100 people attended the rally on Saturday.

1 individual was charged after shoving a counter-protester, according to police, but no charges have been filed. It’s unclear if the person arrested was a rally participant.

Also read: Wearing a mask is a ‘personal choice,’ as per COVID-19, which measures ease: PHAC

For example, residents in the Beltline neighborhood have expressed concern about the rally, citing noise, disruptions to local businesses, and traffic congestion. In recent weeks, these people have formed to oppose the rallies.

“A lot of people are tired of the constant noise and harassment,” Hunter Yaworski, a spokesperson for Community Solidarity YYC, told Global News.

“While at the end of the day, we don’t want this convoy circling 17 Avenue every Saturday… We’ve tried to do it ourselves because the police haven’t been able to help us so far.”

Officers on the scene diverted the rally down a side street, and the confrontation lasted nearly 20 minutes.

Most COVID-19 health measures were lifted in Alberta last weeks, such as most mask mandates, indoor and outdoor social gathering limits, the work-from-home order, and large venue capacity restrictions. 

As part of the province’s three-step plan to ease limitations, the province’s proof-of-vaccination program was also ended last month.

However, rally organizers told Global News that the protests would continue for various reasons.

In a statement, spokesperson Jake Eskesen said, “The most important being that many of us have lost total confidence as well as trust in Jason Kenney as well as his UCP government, who could easily reinstate restrictions at any time.”

“Unvaccinated individuals are still subject to federal travel restrictions, as is the cross-border trucking requirement. In addition to provincial mandates, these protests are against federal mandates.”

Protesters, according to Eskesen, have several demands, including Premier Jason Kenney’s resignation and an inquiry into the provincial COVID-19 response.

Weekly rallies against health-care reforms in downtown Calgary have erupted in violence.
Weekly rallies against health-care reforms in downtown Calgary have erupted in violence. Image from Global News

They also want Pastor Artur Pawloski and Tamara Lich to be released “immediately.” Pawlowski is still being held in custody in Alberta on charges related to the Coutts border blockade. At the same time, Lich was denied bail in Ontario to organize the “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa.

The protesters are also demanding compensation “for those unjustly laid off or placed on temporary leave” as a result of mandatory vaccination requirements, as well as constitutional reform to prevent “similar government overreach,” according to Eskesen.

On Tuesday, a closed-door meeting between the city council and Calgary police will discuss the ongoing protests to determine the next steps in response to complaints from residents and businesses in the area.

Last week, the council agreed to hold regular briefings with the Calgary Police Commission as well as Calgary Police Service regarding the Beltline protests.

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott stated on Monday that while the council does not have the authority to direct local police, the briefings will help councilors communicate the protests’ efforts to the general public.

“This is about establishing an open relationship with all the various branches involved in this so that we can assist educate and inform people and show them that we’re not just turning a blind eye,” Walcott told journalists on Monday.

The rally’s organizers told Global News that they have regularly contacted the police to “ensure the safety of all parties involved” and that they are not concerned about enforcement because protesters are “acting lawfully.”

“We want to deliver our support for the people here,” Yaworski told Global News.

Source: Global News

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