Response to weekend anti-lockdown rallies in Stratford, Waterloo
KITCHENER -- Hundreds of people gathered at anti-lockdown rallies across Southwestern Ontario this weekend, with the ‘no more lockdowns’ movement drawing crowds to Stratford, Peterborough and Uptown Waterloo.
It was the second week in a row that dozens gathered at Waterloo Public Square to push back against pandemic restrictions. Waterloo regional police confirmed that they were on scene but have not said whether tickets were handed out.
Police say they are working alongside bylaw to gather evidence from the rally that could lead to charges.
A WRPS spokesperson said when there are crowd management issues, the top priority is the health and safety of the public and officers.
Gatherings are currently banned under Ontario's stay-at-home order, which is meant to rein in case counts during the third wave of the pandemic.
This is the second Sunday in a row where people rallied in Uptown Waterloo.
Nicole Papke, the director of municipal enforcement services with the City of Waterloo, said three people were charged after the rally on April 18.
She said all three people will appear in court at a later date, meaning fines would be determined by the Justice of the Peace.
Restaurant owner Giuseppe Barranca attended the rally in Waterloo.
"We are borderline going to be bankrupt soon and I'm very close to losing my restaurant," he said.
Barranca said he was ticketed.
"I received a ticket and obviously a lot of backlash for standing up against the lockdown," he said. "But, I don't have many other options. I will be lucky to make it to May 20 if we are allowed to open then."
Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios was at the rally on Sunday, her office confirmed. In an emailed statement to CTV Kitchener, her office said she "shared her concerns with the the crowd" about the province's COVID-19 guidelines, like wearing masks and closing small businesses.
Karahalios was removed from Progressive Conservative caucus in July after she voted against Bill 195, which extended emergency orders in the province and allowed the government to make decisions about COVID-19 relief efforts.
Under the province’s rules, people are not allowed to gather indoors or outdoors with anyone they do not live with, with the exception of people who live alone and are allowed to gather with one other household. Penalties for violating the gathering rules include: Organizers may be fined a minimum of $10,000, while each attendee may receive a $750 ticket.
However, the order did not stop hundreds from rallying in Stratford on Sunday afternoon. The protest was set to begin at Upper Queen’s Park at 2 p.m., but after demonstrators learned that the city and police were blocking off streets to the original site, people began gathering at a new location near the intersection of Downie and Shakespeare Streets.
Demonstrators could be seen shouting at officers and city staff observing the gathering.
"People were not maintaining distance and were not wearing masks," said Dr. Miriam Klassen, Medical Officer of Health for Huron Perth. "Again, these rallies are not going to help to end the lockdown sooner."
At the time the city said that blocking off the streets was a necessary measure to limit access to the event.
Stratford Police said their primary goal in attending was to identify those participating in the rally, and added that any charges would be laid after the fact.