Calgary police condemn racism, respond to weekend anti-lockdown protests

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Calgary police chief outlines challenges with anti-mask rally enforcement' COVID-19: Calgary police chief outlines challenges with anti-mask rally enforcement
WATCH: Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld has responded to criticism of how his officers handled an anti-mask protest on Saturday at the city's police commission meeting. Adam MacVicar reports – Mar 23, 2021

The Calgary Police Service says it strongly condemns racism and hate, releasing a statement Sunday after more anti-lockdown protests over the weekend.

Police said there was a “verbal and physical confrontation” between two groups away from a protest on an unidentified date.

Officers “disrupted the commotion and spoke with both groups.” Police said no one co-operated to pursue the matter further, so no charges were laid.

Read more: COVID-19: Calgary rally joins worldwide anti-lockdown protests

Police said they were present at protests on Saturday and Sunday with the goal of maintaining peace.

“During the protests, however, some offensive messages of intolerance and disrespect were seen,” police said.

“As with previous demonstrations, we were also there to gather evidence in relation to compliance with health orders to enable us to address any issues at a time that is more conducive to public and officer safety.”

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Finding a balance between freedom of expression, public safety and the impact of the rallies is “extremely challenging,” CPS said.

Read more: Calgary police investigating Confederate flag flying in Union Cemetery

“Like so many of the most important issues of the day, we cannot police ourselves out of this one. We do not have the powers to arrest individuals engaging in actions that are offensive or objectionable,” police said.

“Our enforcement of hate speech and related symbols is limited by the Criminal Code of Canada.”

Calgary police were at the Walk for Freedom rally on Saturday, March 21, 2021. Global News

Unless something causes a breach of peace, it is “extremely rare for even the most offensive views to meet the legal threshold for criminal charges,” police explained.

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“In fact, the threshold is so high that charges can only be laid with the prior approval of the attorney general of Canada,” officers said.

CPS said: “There should be no mistaking that the limitations placed on us legally do not mean that morally we condone these acts.”

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