Six Arrested as Calgary Police Step Up Enforcement During Beltline Protests

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Calgary police stepped up law enforcement efforts in response to so-called freedom protests in central areas of the city on Saturday.

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Officers arrested six people in the day for various offenses including breaching an injunction related to the ongoing protests, as well as assaulting a police officer, Calgary Chief Mark Neufeld said.

Five people have been arrested at Central Memorial Park for violating the court order, including one who faces an additional charge for assaulting a police officer. Another person involved in the protests has been arrested on outstanding warrants.

Calgary police make an arrest during an anti-warrant and counter-protester rally in Central Memorial Park on Saturday, March 19, 2022.
Calgary police make an arrest during an anti-warrant and counter-protester rally in Central Memorial Park on Saturday, March 19, 2022. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

Ten tickets were issued under the Highway Safety Act and a decorated tractor-trailer was pulled from the road in front of City Hall.

Calgary police have assembled an investigative team to determine if additional charges are needed, Neufeld said.

“We know we still have work to do, but we certainly want you to have complete confidence in the Calgary Police Service and our members,” Neufeld said. “These efforts will continue as we work together to bring peace to the Beltline and surrounding communities.”

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About 1,000 protesters marched from Central Memorial Park to City Hall on Saturday afternoon carrying signs, chanting “freedom” and waving Canadian flags. Several police units maintained a presence outside City Hall to maintain a lane of traffic along Macleod Trail.

Meanwhile, musicians sang songs and several speakers addressed the crowd, vowing to continue protesting as long as COVID-19 vaccination mandates existed in Canada.

After the rally ended, protesters marched from City Hall down Stephen Avenue before returning to Central Memorial Park. As more people arrived, police used their bikes to push protesters to the edge of the park and onto public sidewalks.

Protesters shouted “you’re on the wrong side” and “you’ll see us next week” at officers as they continued to advance. Six officers forcibly restrained and arrested a man near the center of the park. Another man who refused to budge from a park bench was arrested for obstruction.

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Calgary police clean up Central Memorial Park following rallies by anti-warrant protesters and counter-protesters on Saturday, March 19, 2022.
Calgary police clean up Central Memorial Park following rallies by anti-warrant protesters and counter-protesters on Saturday, March 19, 2022. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

A few freedom protesters and a small group of counter-protesters remained after the park cleared, dispersing around 5 p.m.

The court injunction granted to the city on Friday prevents protesters from blocking traffic, operating unlicensed vendor stands in parks, excessively honking their horns or using an amplification system in a park without permission prior.

Curtis Makky stood in front of City Hall, watching protesters gather in front of the municipal building. Makky said he was against vaccination mandates because he lost his job because of his company’s politics and is now struggling to find a new job.

“(Companies) always require new employees to be vaccinated or show that proof of vaccination in order to get the job. And that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering they claimed all the restrictions had been lifted. »

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Anti-warrant protesters march to Calgary City Hall on Saturday, March 19, 2022. Protesters gathered at Central Memorial Park and then marched on the sidewalks to City Hall.
Anti-warrant protesters march to Calgary City Hall on Saturday, March 19, 2022. Protesters gathered at Central Memorial Park and then marched on the sidewalks to City Hall. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

Asked about the impacts the protests have had on Beltline businesses and residents, Makky said everyone’s lives have been impacted by the COVID-19 health measures.

“What about the people who have lost their jobs, their businesses, their dreams, their livelihoods? That’s two years ago.

About 100 counter-protesters gathered at Lougheed House earlier today. Hunter Yaworski, spokesperson for Community Solidarity YYC, said he wanted enforcement to happen sooner, but was optimistic about the police response.

“We stand with the community as we have done before, and I hope the police will do what they said they were going to do,” Yaworski said.

Calgary-Buffalo NDP MP Joe Ceci, whose riding includes areas affected by the protests, said he believes the court order awarded to the city is a good first step, but the province should also intervene.

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“I have also asked the province to step in and support the city with its own injunction to give more weight to the potential legal enforcement of tickets and by-law violations.”

Anti-warrant protesters walk down Stephen Avenue Mall to City Hall in Calgary on Saturday, March 19, 2022. Protesters met in Central Memorial Park and then walked the sidewalks to City Hall .
Anti-warrant protesters walk down Stephen Avenue Mall to City Hall in Calgary on Saturday, March 19, 2022. Protesters met in Central Memorial Park and then walked the sidewalks to City Hall . Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

The city council and police commission said it has received hundreds of emails and phone calls from Calgarians about the protests in recent weeks.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek’s letter to the police commission outlined some of those concerns.

“The noise level of horns and chants from protesters’ vehicles negatively impacts quality of life,” she wrote.

Gondek noted that residents, many of whom live in condos or one- and two-bedroom apartments, left the area to avoid feeling trapped in their homes on Saturday afternoons. Others said they were harassed for wearing masks.

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Businesses reported loss of revenue as customers flee the area before the protests began.

Calgary police keep Macleod Trail open to traffic as anti-warrant protesters gather outside City Hall on Saturday, March 19, 2022. Protesters met at Central Memorial Park and then marched on the sidewalks to at the town hall.
Calgary police keep Macleod Trail open to traffic as anti-warrant protesters gather outside City Hall on Saturday, March 19, 2022. Protesters met at Central Memorial Park and then marched on the sidewalks to at the town hall. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

Dan Murray, owner of the I Love You cafe in the Beltline, said the protests began about 18 months ago and reached thousands of people after the so-called Freedom Convoy traveled to Ottawa.

“It got really crazy when the trucker stuff came along,” he said.

The Parliament Hill protest swarmed downtown Ottawa for about three weeks and ended after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Federal Emergencies Act. More than 100 people were charged with various offenses between February 17 and 18.

Murray said he and other residents also expected Saturday’s protests in Calgary to end by then, but that it was “getting worse and worse.”

Peter Oliver, president of the Beltline Neighborhoods Association, said the protest had turned into a “real toxic mix” that includes white supremacists and other extremists.

“We have a serious problem here,” he said earlier this week.

“It’s a whole buffet of different losers.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

bgervais@postmedia.com

Twitter: @BrittGervaisAB

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