“It did clear out the mall. A lot of people, I think, left the mall at that point and didn’t come back which is unfortunate because we need all the business we can get right now,” said La Vie en Rose Manager Shari Lauritzen.
“It’s very frustrating.”
A crowd, which Regina police estimated to be of about 160, gathered in Victoria Park Saturday afternoon in anticipation of the arrival of Chris “Sky” Saccoccia, an anti-health order activist in the middle of a self-proclaimed “Freedom Convoy” across the country.
Speaking to Global News Sunday, Lauritzen detailed how an estimated 30 protestors entered the mall Saturday afternoon, who were followed by a number of smaller groups. She said at first they weren’t causing a lot of commotion.
“I told my girls, stay at the back of the stores. They went down the main aisle of the mall and went up the escalators. They weren’t yelling or screaming, they were just walking,” she said.
Lauritzen said police and mall security eventually confronted the protestors and asked them to leave.
“On their way out, and I don’t know if the police were a trigger for them, but as they were leaving then they started with their ‘freedom chants’ and they all had their phones out. They stopped at a kiosk that sells mask, which happened to be closed, and spent a lot of time around that kiosk, then continued on very loud.”
Lauritzen said she didn’t see any protestors try to enter hers or any other stores, but that their effect on other visitors was noticeable. She said that with the seating area of the mall’s food court closed, a demographic of casual customers who like to have a bite before roaming the mall has already been lost.
“When something like this happens, it scares more people away,” she said.
“I talk to other managers in the mall and we’re all scared. Every day we go to work we are afraid because you never know who is going to walk through those doors. It’s unnerving. We go to work every day and smile and deal with all of that fear, stress and anxiety, and having 60 people walk through the mall is kind of a slap in the face.”
In a Sunday press release, the Regina Police Service called the protest “peaceful” and said no arrests were made.
While four people who attended were ticketed, Lauritzen said she thinks more enforcement should be done.
“Ticketing only the organizers does absolutely nothing because frankly, they don’t care. Can you ticket every single person who was down there? I mean it would take a long time, but there’s ways. There has to be something else that can be done.”