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Tiki torches, Trump flags, no masks: anti-lockdown protesters march in downtown Calgary

Last Updated Feb 28, 2021 at 9:57 am MDT

CALGARY – The latest anti-lockdown protest in Alberta drew hundreds of protesters and counter-protesters to downtown Calgary on Saturday afternoon, exactly one week after a large-scale rally in Edmonton.

An estimated 400 people converged on Calgary’s city hall to take part in – or oppose – the province’s latest “Walk for Freedom” protest and march.

There was a heavy police presence separating the two sides. At one point, the groups confronted each other as police created a barricade using their bicycles.

The anti-restriction protesters – mostly without face coverings – held signs that read “Unmask the truth,” “Free speech” and “All Lives Matter.” Several waved Canadian flags.

One protester wore a USA sweatshirt, a Trump 2020 ball cap and waved a Trump 2020 flag. Others held Trump flags as well.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski, one of the organizers and leaders of Alberta’s anti-lockdown movement, spoke to the crowd while holding a lit tiki torch.

He also took a moment to disparage some of the media personnel in attendance.

“What happened with you mainstream media? What turned you into lying and deceiving and manipulating liars?” he said.

Trying to drown him out, beyond the wall of police officers, were the counter-protesters banging on drums and shouting a cacophony of anti-racist messages.

They chanted “united we stand, divided we fall,” “Black Lives Matter” and “no hate on my street.” One counter-protester carried a large “Black Lives Matter” flag.

The march down Macleod Trail SW finally got underway shortly before 3 p.m., with Pawlowski and several others leading the way with tiki torches.

It was a similar scene last week in Edmonton, when several hundred protesters gathered at the Alberta legislature to voice their disapproval of lockdowns, masks and other public-health restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The protesters then marched through the streets of Edmonton carrying tiki torches.

READ MORE: Police chief responds to criticism over handling of anti-mask rallies

Before the Saturday’s protest in Calgary, police chief Const. Mark Neufeld assured there would be a large police presence.

“The vast majority of these events pass uneventfully with the members of our service working with groups of all sorts to facilitate the expression of constitutional rights in a way that is not only safe but in a way that minimizes the impact on the public and the broader community,” said Neufeld.

So far the CPS has issued 63 violations under the mask bylaw and 116 under the public health act.

WATCH: Police separate protesters during rally (Feb. 20 in Edmonton)