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Kelowna officer did not endorse COVID-19 ‘freedom rally’ with thumbs up, police say

Click to play video: 'Hundreds attend anti-restriction rally in Kelowna' Hundreds attend anti-restriction rally in Kelowna
Carrying signs and expressing opinions, demonstrators gathered at Stuart Park in Kelowna, B.C., on Saturday, with many vehicles honking in support, before marching down Bernard Avenue – Dec 12, 2020

A Kelowna RCMP officer did not endorse protesters at a COVID-19 “freedom rally” by giving them a thumbs up, according to a detachment spokesperson.

A photo circulating on social media appears to show the Mountie in a marked cruiser making the hand gesture as he drove past protesters in downtown Kelowna on Saturday.

Some protesters claimed their cause was being supported by “the blue,” in reference to the Mounties.

Read more: Organizer of Kelowna’s anti-COVID-19 restriction protest fined: police

“I have spoken to him and I can unequivocally state that the officer was not supporting or endorsing the protest,” Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy said in an email on Monday.

A Kelowna Mountie gives a thumbs up in an exchange with protesters about where they can stand on the sidewalk. Facebook/Submitted

She said the officer had been telling the protesters to get off the median because it wasn’t safe.

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The group asked if they could move to one particular side of the road, Noseworthy said, and the officer responded that they could.

The rally-goers had difficulty understanding him, she added, so he used a thumbs-up sign.

Click to play video: 'B.C. nurse frustrated anti-mask rallies continue amid COVID-19 case surge' B.C. nurse frustrated anti-mask rallies continue amid COVID-19 case surge
B.C. nurse frustrated anti-mask rallies continue amid COVID-19 case surge – Dec 6, 2020

Protesters had gathered by the hundreds in the city’s downtown core to speak out against COVID-19 restrictions, masks, and vaccines while others touted conspiracy theories.

The rally crossed several busy roads, and the RCMP were on hand to prevent confrontations between the crowd and nearby residents and passing motorists, police said.

Read more: Calgary, Edmonton protesters rally against COVID-19 measures as Alberta adds 1,590 new cases

Mounties issued a $2,300 fine to the self-identified organizer for violating the provincial health order banning mass gatherings.

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As of Friday, there were 9,589 active cases of COVID-19 in the province with 342 people in hospital and 87 of whom are in intensive care.

Nearly 600 people have died of an illness related to the virus in B.C.

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