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‘Putting lives at risk’: Barrie city council pens open letter to COVID-19 lockdown protesters

In the letter, Barrie council pleads with demonstrators to protest online and not in crowds. File Image

City council in Barrie, Ont., has penned an open letter to people who are planning on attending an in-person demonstration on Saturday that protests the province-wide COVID-19 lockdown.

In the letter, council said people who are planning on coming to the protest in person are putting lives at risk by illegally gathering

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“In Barrie, our COVID cases have tripled in one week. The number of people arriving at RVH who are gasping for breath due to severe COVID-19 is growing every day,” council wrote in Thursday’s letter.

“You have the right to protest, and should you choose to do so, do it safely. Protest online. Post on social media. But do not gather in crowds.”

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While people may think the protest is about freedom, council said it isn’t, and that people who gather are contributing to the spread of COVID-19, which “robs people of their freedom by getting them sick.”

“You are endangering the very people you think you are advocating for by making it unsafe for them to be in a public square,” council said in the letter.

“You may think this is about supporting small businesses, but in fact, you are hurting the very businesses you claim you’re helping by risking the health of their employees and by driving potential business away.”

Council said people may think the in-person demonstration is about opposing the lockdown but that it actually contributes to a longer lockdown because of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Read more: Barrie, Ont., restaurant continues to defy COVID-19 shutdown, stay-at-home order

“You may point to other protests, but they happened once, not every Saturday, and other organizers made attempts to mask and keep people safe,” council said.

“Please don’t gather. It’s wrong, it’s dangerous and it’s incredibly selfish.”

The open letter that Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman posted online came after Maxime Bernier, the leader of far-right group the People’s Party of Canada, said he planned to attend Saturday’s lockdown protest at Meridian Place.

“The anti-science rallies that have been happening on Saturdays in Downtown Barrie appear to have a far right political figure attending this weekend,” Barrie Ward 2 councillor Keenan Aylwain said on Twitter Wednesday.

“He should stay away.”

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On Thursday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported 31 new COVID-19 cases in Barrie. So far in Barrie, there’s been a total of 3,092 coronavirus cases reported since the start of the pandemic, including 107 deaths.

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