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Calgary mayor responds to protests amid COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video: 'Mayor encourages thousands who attended anti-racism rallies in Calgary to get tested for COVID-19' Mayor encourages thousands who attended anti-racism rallies in Calgary to get tested for COVID-19
WATCH: There are growing concerns that recent anti-racism rallies in Calgary may have spread the novel coronavirus. Christa Dao reports on those concerns and why Calgary`s mayor is urging everyone who attended the rallies to get tested for COVID-19 – Jun 4, 2020

During the city’s weekly COVID-19 update, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi fielded several questions related to the recent protests that saw thousands taking to the streets, rallying against racism and police brutality amid the pandemic.

Calgary’s protests were prompted by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody after a violent arrest on May 25 in the United States.

READ MORE: Thousands march through Calgary streets in anti-police violence, anti-racism rally

Nenshi first addressed the important issues the protests highlighted, acknowledging that racism is a problem that must be tackled in all corners of the world.

However, the issue of public safety surrounding such a large mass gathering during the pandemic had Nenshi nervous.

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“It’s a huge potential risk,” he said. “We all do what we can do to balance off what is needed to protect public health but also to protect public rights.”

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‘The first step in change is acknowledging the problem’: Mayor Nenshi on protests – Jun 4, 2020

Nenshi said that the public’s right to protest is one that needed to be honoured, even during a time where mass gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited.

“What we understand is over-zealous enforcement in protests in other places have led to very, very bad outcomes. So ultimately, we’ve got to be realistic and we’ve got to be good citizens here,” he said.

“Fighting for fundamental right for life in a protest is not the same as going out for beers with your softball team.”

READ MORE: No yelling, wear a mask: How George Floyd protests can be safe amid COVID-19

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No tickets have been handed out during the city’s three protests. However, Nenshi noted these important protests should not be used as an excuse to ignore the public health regulations on a daily basis.

“We have to be unbelievably careful… I want to remind people that the sacrifices that you’ve made are precisely what has kept us in a position where we are able to open up and ease restrictions as we have.”

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Nenshi said he was pleased to see many residents attend the rallies with masks and sanitizer and added anyone who was in attendance should continue to closely monitor their health over the next 14 days.

“I do think it makes real sense for those who have been in any situation where they’ve been with a lot of other people to double down on their own efforts to make sure that they’re practising very good hand hygiene,” Nenshi said. “And if you were at one of those at the protests, you’ve got to wear a mask and you’ve got to be even more careful in all your activities for the next 14 days.”

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Nenshi added that the new drop-in testing centre that opened in Calgary on Wednesday is another great asset to utilize for those who fear they may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus through a large gathering.

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