Police are reminding Calgarians that a temporary court injunction is still in place as officers attempt to de-escalate tensions ahead of expected weekend protests in the Beltline neighbourhood.
In an online statement, city police say anyone participating in demonstrations must ensure they are aware of the order and any related restrictions.
“Our Police Liaison Teams are continuing to communicate with protest organizers,” read the statement.
“Our plans are flexible and will adapt depending on crowd dynamics. Officers will be in place this weekend to manage public safety. Temporary road closures and no-stopping zones may be in effect.”
The injunction currently prohibits the blocking of traffic or operating of vendor stands without a permit within Central Memorial Park or other areas. It also bans excessive noise including the unnecessary sounding of horns or other audible warning devices.
In light of police ramping up enforcement, members of Calgary Freedom Central have decided to protest elsewhere this Saturday
The following statement was obtained from independent media liaison Jake Eskesen:
“Protesters have decided to make their new home this week at Olympic Plaza to express our displeasure with The City of Calgary’s injunction which puts unacceptable limitations on the right to peaceful assembly and free expression in addition to remaining federal travel restrictions,” the statement read.
“Efforts will be made to stay in compliance with the injunction, despite our opposition to it. The protests will foreseeably continue until the injunction and remaining restrictions are dropped.”
Some of the protesters say they are frustrated with federal travel restrictions for unvaccinated individuals and a lack of compensation for those laid off or placed on temporary leave due to their vaccination status.
Other concerns relate to dismay over Alberta Health Services’ handling of the pandemic, and continued calls for Premier Jason Kenney to resign.
An Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice granted the City of Calgary a temporary court injunction on March 18 following a tense standoff on March 12 between those who oppose COVID-19 mandates and restrictions and Beltline residents who formed a line.
Those residents blocked a stretch of 17th Avenue S.W. in an attempt to send the message that they’re fed up with the weekly disturbances.
On March 19, a large crowd of ‘freedom’ protesters as well as counter-protesters, gathered at Central Memorial Park.
There was also a rally in front of city hall and a significant march of about 2,000 people down Stephen Avenue.
Police made six arrests during those demonstrations, including four for breaching the court injunction. One individual was arrested for an outstanding warrant, and a semi-truck driver was arrested for incessant honking. Officers also handed out multiple parking tickets and fines for excessive noise.
‘I DON’T THINK IT’S FAIR’
Regular protest attendee Devlin Gannon, who was arrested last Saturday in Central Memorial Park, says Calgary police have stepped out of line and need to be held accountable.
Gannon says he works as a freelance independent journalist and tells CTV News he was charged with one count of obstructing the temporary injunction and one count of assaulting a police officer.
Video of the arrest submitted as evidence in his case appears to show an officer falling down during his arrest, but Gannon says the officer’s fall was caused by tripping over the leg of another protester.
Gannon says he was thrown to the ground and Tasered.
“I was stepping backwards the whole time speaking to the officer and then it just very much escalated from that point forward,” Gannon said.
“One of the officers had grabbed the collar of my hoodie and threw me backwards and I bumped into a whole bunch of people and I was there as media holding my microphone.”
Gannon adds that he was held in custody for just under 24 hours, but intends to fight the charges as he believes he had every right to be at the park reporting on the protests.
A police spokesperson provided the following statement regarding Gannon’s version of events.
“The assault charges will be addressed through the court process, therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time. Peaceful protesting within the park is permitted within the regulations of the injunction.”
None of Gannon’s allegations have been proven in court.
BELTLINE RESIDENTS HOPE FOR PEACEFUL PROTESTS
In anticipation of another weekend of protests, the Beltline Neighbourhoods association says it hopes those protesting will remain at City Hall or other appropriate areas to voice their concerns.
Board member Juliet Burgess says last weekend many residents in the Beltline were mostly pleased with how CPS handled the situation.
“We are just really hoping this weekend that CPS continues to enforce the bylaws,” she said.
“Last weekend, CPS was redirecting folks, and it looked like the majority of the protesters took to the streets and went to City Hall, so they left the Beltline area and they’ve spent most of their protest time over there and City Hall, which is probably a more appropriate location.”
Burgess adds that a Saturday without the blocking of roads, especially main thoroughfares like 17th Avenue, was welcome for many residents and businesses.
“The Neighborhood Association has always been very pro public safety and public health so I think our personal perspectives on the issues being protested doesn’t matter in this sense, we’re just really grateful to have peace back in the Beltline.”
Hunter Yaworski, a spokesperson for Community Solidarity Calgary, says he was also pleased to see protesters move to City Hall, but wishes police had acted sooner.
“With the injunction, we are disappointed that that’s what it takes to get the Calgary Police Service to do their jobs and to enforce bylaws and such,” he said.
“But we’re happy that ultimately it did lead to something. It did stop the freedom convoy protesters from marching down 17th and it stopped them from being too much of a hassle at Central Memorial Park.”
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