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Frustration grows as anti-mask rallies continue

Last Updated Apr 19, 2021 at 6:33 pm MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — After more anti-mask rallies were held in Calgary over the weekend, frustration is growing around the continued demonstrations and people are looking to law enforcement or the provincial government for assistance.

The latest series of rallies on Saturday and Sunday also brought out people known for hateful, racist views and they are using the protests against COVID-19 health restrictions to platform their views to a wider audience.

After protestors went to Prince’s Island Park once again, Ward 7 Councillor Druh Farrell expressed her disappointment and called for the province to do something more.

“It’s my understanding that proposals to ramp up enforcement have been denied by the Province. Please support our protective services and help them to do their jobs,” she tweeted on Sunday.

Farrell would not provide more details about the allegation that proposals are being denied, but told 660 NEWS that she hears loud and clear from her constituents that they are fed up.

“This has gone beyond anything reasonable. They are disrupting and doing damage and hurting people by their behaviour. They take over the stage on Prince’s Island, they have amplification, the message is hateful and they take over the public realm,” she said. “They don’t just limit it to the island. They are confrontational, they are aggressive, they want to get into a scrap. It’s frightening the people who live and work and play in the area.”

Demonstrators in the rally go to heavily congested pedestrian areas, such as the Peace Bridge or the Memorial Drive pathway, and Farrell said it is unacceptable that families are being disrupted while trying to enjoy a nice afternoon during the pandemic.

Violence has been a problem at these demonstrations in the past, including one incident in March where a man in a wheelchair was punched by a protestor and police laid charges.

While messaging from politicians in Calgary has been clear to denounce the demonstrations, they have not slowed down. Farrell said that some of the blame has to lie at the feet of the provincial government, as Premier Jason Kenney has said he is supportive of free expression and also is not a fan of the restrictions, while also criticizing the actions of some of the protestors.

RELATED: Protesters at Alberta Legislature calling for end to COVID-19 restrictions

“When you give a wink and a nod to these extremist groups, it’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle. They’ve created a monster they are having a difficult time controlling.”

But Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said Farrell is incorrect, and there has been no denial from the province.

“No iota of truth in that allegation,” Madu said on Monday. “The Minister of Justice has no role in directing law enforcement on how best to enforce or ensure that people do not violate the public health orders. I have not seen a request.”

Madu pleaded with people to follow the guidelines, but added that if there are some gaps present in the current strategy that he hopes to hear about it so it can be fixed.

“My hope is that the folks at the department of health, Minister (Tyler) Shandro and the Chief Medical Officer of Health and indeed any elected officials in this province can make that particular request,” Madu said. “We have seen that law enforcement have been doing that particular work and I leave it to them to determine how best to continue to enforce the public health measures.”

The approach to the rallies has resulted in consistent criticism of Calgary police, with Chief Constable Mark Neufeld saying that they are in a tough position because they must also protect the right of free expression and peaceful protest.

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

Farrell said it became clear long ago that a line has been crossed.

“They’re far beyond anti-mask, anti-lockdown. These have become hate rallies.”