Court grants injunction aimed at controlling Beltline protests

The injunction prohibits ongoing violations of existing bylaws and legislation, and both reinforces and clarifies enforcement authority

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Calgary police said officers are going to crack down on marching and disruption in Calgary on Saturday after the city was granted a temporary court injunction. 

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Chief Mark Neufeld said police will end the parade of protesters that have been paralyzing the Beltline area and along 17th Avenue for months on Saturday through the injunction.

“There will be no marching tomorrow,” said Neufeld during a police commission meeting on Friday. “There will be no mobile protest. And there will be nobody behaving that way down on the Beltline.”

The injunction granted Friday bars people from blocking traffic on roads and sidewalks, operating vendor stands without a permit at parks, excessive horn honking or using an amplification system in the park without prior permission. Those in violation could be arrested or detained.

Thousands of protesters have paraded through city streets on Saturdays over several months in opposition to a number of issues, mostly related to COVID-19 public health measures. Numbers have ranged from 300 people in March 2020 to as many as 5,000 people in February, according to police.

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Escalation has increased over the last three weeks when demonstrators were met with counter-protesters comprising Beltline residents and community members. Police estimated around 200 counter-protesters gathered in Tomkins Park last weekend.

Neufeld said enforcement through existing bylaws usually results in a ticket or summons. The injunction allows officers to detain anyone in violation on site.

“Marching in the protests, noisemakers, horns, amplification devices — these types of things you could actually be arrested (for),” Neufeld said.

“Once you’re aware of the order and its existence, you can be told to stop doing that. And if you continue to do that, you can be arrested right there and go directly to jail.”

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Shawn Cornett, chair of the police commission, said the oversight board has received more than 400 written submissions on the protests within the last week.

“We hear you and we want to make it and your community has experienced a disproportionate impact from these protests. It cannot continue,” Cornett said.

The commission respects the freedom of people to protest, Cornett said, but that freedom also comes with responsibility.

“Holding protests that obstruct traffic, produce noise and disrupt the same neighbourhood, week after week, only continually punishes the people who have as much control as you over the things you are protesting.”

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the injunction allows Calgary police to have another tool available to effectively address ongoing disruptions in the Beltline community.

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“Beltline residents, visitors and businesses have every right to lead their lives without fear and disturbance. It is time for protesters to voluntarily move to more appropriate venues,” Gondek said in a Friday release. 

The Beltline Neighbourhoods Association said residents are being harmed by protesters’ excessive use of horns, occupation of Central Memorial Park and main streets, public harassment, stalking of residents wearing masks, littering and public defecation by protesters every Saturday.

Businesses are now experiencing a 15 to 20 per cent decline in sales and threats to their employees from protesters as well, according to the association.

“We applaud the leadership of the City of Calgary for their support of the community by advocating for this and a permanent injunction,” the group wrote in a statement posted online Friday. “We are hopeful that this allows our community to return to being the vibrant, safe, and welcoming place it was before these aggressive demonstrations.”

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Calgary police attempt to move counter-protesters during last Saturday.
Calgary police attempt to move counter-protesters during last Saturday. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia

While protesters say they are in opposition to COVID-19 health measures and vaccine mandates, people with extremist and hateful views have been seen marching along with demonstrators.

Some have been seen carrying various hate flags, ‘f— Trudeau’ signs, and conspiracy posters. One protester was seen carrying a sign that read “It’s time you got fitted for a new tie Kenney” during one protest on Feb. 26. 

Neufeld confirmed Friday police are aware some protesters are connected to or affiliated with white supremacy groups.

“When we have had knowledge of individuals from those types of groups participating in the protests, there has been attention paid to them. Certainly, if any individuals would commit an offence, that would have been arrestable or something we could have dealt with, we would certainly like to do that.”

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Alberta’s NDP municipal affairs critic Joe Ceci said he’s spoken to residents and businesses affected by the ongoing disruption in the Beltline over the last few weeks.

“This is a huge disruption that has been going on for far too long,” Ceci said during an unrelated news conference Friday.

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Ceci said he would write a letter to Justice Minister Tyler Shandro to ask the province to offer the city support “so that we actually deal with this once and for all and return the Beltline to the way it used to be.”

“This province has a do-nothing kind of approach to everything and frankly, I’m glad the City of Calgary has taken steps to address this situation at its heart.”

Shandro responded to a request from Ceci earlier this week for the province to help resolve ongoing protests in the city in the Alberta legislature on Wednesday.

He said Albertans have the right to protest peacefully and police are responsible for making decisions on enforcement, but he would consider requests for support from Calgary police or the police commission.

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Twitter: @BrittGervaisAB

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