Mayor Gondek calls on law enforcement to do more as tension mounts at Beltline protests

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Mayor Jyoti Gondek is calling on law enforcement to take more action against people protesting COVID-19 warrants in Calgary’s Beltline neighborhood.

Tensions were high on Saturday afternoon between anti-warrant protesters, counter-protesters and police as the groups met along 17th Avenue SW for the second weekend in a row.

Calgary police estimate there were 2,000 protesters on Saturday.

In a Twitter thread, Gondek called the anti-warrant protest a “parade” without a permit or license. She also asked why the regulations were not enforced.

“It’s not about warrants. Those are gone. Until it goes away, law enforcement let it grow. Telling residents/businesses to wait = shameful,” a she writes.

Anti-warrant demonstrators waved Canadian flags, honked their horns and shouted “freedom” on Saturday as they turned onto 17th Avenue from Fourth Street SW before encountering a small group of counter-protesters.

Police attempted to separate the two groups, but protesters came face to face with only a line of police separating them. Eventually the anti-warrant protesters passed the group of counter-protesters to continue on 17th Avenue SW

According to the police, the clash between the two groups blocked the area for more than an hour.

Videos circulating on social media showed at least one officer apparently pushing back counter-protesters. In some videos, police are seen using bicycles to push protesters.

“It is important to know that these protests took place over several hours and individual photos and short video clips do not always paint the full picture,” Calgary police said in an emailed statement.

“Our members worked with all parties to try to negotiate an alternative that allowed them to protest peacefully, but after receiving limited cooperation and acknowledging the volatility of the situation, officers had to take action to prevent a further escalation of the situation. crowd and minimize disruption to residents and businesses.”

Police added that officers had collected “a significant amount of evidence” which they would review with investigators to determine a possible application.

Ward 8 County. Courtney Walcott, who represents the area and is also a member of the Calgary Police Commission, tweeted her support for Beltline residents on Saturday, calling the police action a “failure.”

“Being in the Beltline today, seeing the unequal treatment of protesters – the impact of these protests is profound,” Walcott said.

“One group met with aggression, the other with submission. If the outcome sought was non-violence, today was a failure.”

Walcott added that he has raised his concerns with the police commission and the city.

Frustrated Beltline residents

While anti-warrant protesters have been active in the Beltline area for about a year, a small group of counter-protesters has now formed.

The counter-protesters said they stand in solidarity with Beltline residents and businesses who have become increasingly frustrated with anti-warrant protests in recent months.

The counter-protesters said they stand in solidarity with Beltline residents and businesses who are frustrated with anti-warrant protests that have taken place on Saturdays for the past year. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Hunter Yaworski, spokesman for the group, said his goal was to reclaim the Beltline on Saturday afternoon.

“We are allowed to be here and express our opinions and our frustrations to [the anti-mandate demonstrators]“, Yaworski said.

“I can’t walk down 17th Avenue and feel safe, it’s incredibly loud, a lot of people I know leave their homes all day because they don’t want to hear the constant noise.”

Yaworski said many Beltline residents are unsure why the anti-warrant protests have continued in light of the Alberta government ending nearly all COVID-19 restrictions. March 1.

Anti-warrant protesters held anti-Trudeau signs and sang the Canadian anthem as they marched down 17th Avenue SW

Protesters and police clashed in Calgary’s Beltline as anti-warrant protests continue and residents and their supporters hold their ground. (Helen Pike/CBC)

A staunch supporter of the protests, who was unable to attend Saturday’s protest, told CBC and other media in a statement that he planned to continue joining rallies to protest federal restrictions on international travel and those who had been “unfairly” furloughed from their jobs due to their vaccination status.

Jake Eskesen said he has lost faith in the Alberta government and provincial health services.

City council and police expressed concern last week over the meeting of the two protest groups.

“It worries me because obviously any time you have two groups of people that are kind of opposed ideologically or otherwise, you know, it increases the volatility and the potential for violence,” chief Mark Neufeld said more early in the week.

Neufeld noted that while he appreciates the frustration of Beltline residents, anti-warrant protests, while disruptive, are legal.

Com. Walcott told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday that over time, it becomes unclear what the protesters want.

“For a year, these have been public health measures. But here we are, in a province where we don’t have them, and yet they continue,” Walcott said. “So I think the goal posts have moved so much that no one can determine what it is anymore.”

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