City of Guelph employee suspended after online comments about Black Lives Matter protest

Click to play video: 'Thousands gather in Ottawa for demonstration, Trudeau takes knee'
Thousands gather in Ottawa for demonstration, Trudeau takes knee
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among thousands who took part in a peaceful rally in Ottawa against police brutality and systemic racism, following the death of George Floyd. – Jun 5, 2020

The City of Guelph says it has suspended an employee over comments made online about Saturday’s Black Lives Matter protest in the downtown core.

In a statement on Monday, the city said it had learned that an employee used an online platform to “criticize and disparage” the peaceful rally.

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The employee has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the city.

“The employee’s comments do not reflect City of Guelph values,” the city stated. “As an employer and community partner, the City of Guelph believes strongly in an inclusive culture of respect and collaboration.”

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The city didn’t specifically identify the post in question or its author but in a series of tweets, Mayor Cam Guthrie did respond to a complaint about a post on the Overheard At Guelph Facebook group.

A group member posted a profanity-laced message that complained about those who attended the protest and questioned what they accomplished.

“Now you have to self-isolate/guarantee for 14 days, can’t see your family, friends or loved ones,” the post read. “Why don’t you protest about things that matter in this country? Like how veterans, elderly or mentally-challenged people are treated?”

The post, which has now been deleted from the group, told protesters to “give your head a shake. Dumb f-ks.”

Organizers had said they worked with the city, police and the local health unit ahead of the protest.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health stated it supported the protest but urged people to wear masks, practise social distancing and self-monitor for any COVID-19 symptoms for two weeks.

Click to play video: 'George Floyd protests: Police chief Mark Saunders takes a knee during Toronto rally'
George Floyd protests: Police chief Mark Saunders takes a knee during Toronto rally

Guelph police are also looking into the post after it was rumoured the author was an employee of the service.

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“The Guelph Police Service would like to assure the public that this individual is not and has not at any time been a member of the Guelph Police Service in any capacity,” police stated in a news release.

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Saturday’s protest was largely peaceful and was attended by about 5,000 people. It included speeches from local community members along with poetry and music.

In an email, the president of the Guelph Black Heritage Society, Denise Francis, said they have not seen the post but were made aware of it.

“The Guelph Black Heritage Society does not tolerate hate or negativity from anyone,” she stated.

“As demonstrated on Saturday, we have the support from many members of the community. It is our hope to continue to share our culture with Guelph/Wellington and equality for all.”

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