EDMONTON — A criminal investigation has been launched after an anti-racism rally on Sunday in Red Deer, whose organizers say counter-protesters were violent.
New Justice Minister Kaycee Madu called videos of the apparent confrontation disturbing and unacceptable.
“Disagreeing does not entitle one to use violence. We can and should disagree on public policy and discuss issues without resorting to violence,” he told media during a last-minute press conference on Tuesday.
Videos from the Sunday event, which surfaced online in the following days, appear to show the counter-protesting group attending the anti-racism rally.
In the footage, captured by rally attendee Jeremy Russell, tension grows amongst the crowd and reaches a fever pitch after a man enters the camera frame and seems to push another man’s head.
As the shouts and expletives increase, others are purportedly pushed and shoved, too.
At one point, someone says into a megaphone, “Antifa, go home.”
At another point, a man seemingly part of the counter-protest says, “You wanna go? Let’s dance right now. You shut the f*** up.”
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said it was “highly concerning for our community that travelling protests have incited division and violence in our city.”
“I’ve spoken with the provincial Minister of Justice as well as the RCMP, and both are in solidarity with The City in upholding law and order in our community.”
“I have seen select clips of the protest in Red Deer on Sunday and I am admittedly disturbed,” Madu said.
“I have been publicly clear about this: Violence and threat of violence at peaceful protests are unacceptable, period.”
The justice minister told media Alberta RCMP Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki has told him a criminal investigation was opened, but that it would be inappropriate for the ministry itself to direct police to lay charges.
In a statement, Red Deer RCMP say the alleged assault happened before officers had arrived for their planned attendance, and were made aware of a second “incident” via social media the next day.
Officer in Charge Supt. Gerald Grobmeier said the matter was being taken “very seriously.”
Madu said he, too, was told the anti-racism rally location changed and some of the alleged events took place before RCMP were on scene.
“That is the explanation I received from the RCMP and have no reason to doubt that,” Madu said.
“It’s important again that we remind ourselves that we would have to let RCMP follow their process in order to get to the bottom of this.”
Supt. Grobmeier was scheduled to speak at 2:30 p.m. Watch his remarks live at CTVNewsEdmonton.ca.
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