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.
“When I watch this, I have so many conflicting feelings.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
“Don’t use this as an excuse, that’s childish.
“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.”
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.”
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.