Peterborough police say further charges are coming from Saturday’s anti-COVID-lockdown protest held at Confederation Square.
The protest — which attracted hundreds of participants including independent Ontario MPP Randy Hillier and Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada — led police to issue eight tickets to date, according to Peterborough Police Service Chief Scott Gilbert who appeared during Peterborough Public Health’s weekly pandemic update on Tuesday.
Three of the tickets were directly in violation of the Reopening Ontario Act, said Gilbert who personally issued one ticket each to Hiller and Bernier in what was briefly a tense moment as a crowd gathered around the city’s top cop.
Five other tickets were issued to individuals for provincial offences acts including an out-of-town vehicle with a group of people who were driving the wrong way on George Street, Gilbert noted.
There was also public urination occurring at the park across from City Hall on George Street, he said.
“People were relieving themselves in public view,” said Gilbert, noting there are no public washroom facilities in the park or nearby.
Gilbert and Insp. John Lyons said a number of protest participants have been identified from published photos and they’ve also received information from other jurisdictions such as Cobourg and Oshawa.
“It’s an ongoing effort to identify people involved,” said Lyons. “There are further charges pending.”
“We are now in the process of identifying these individuals — some of whom are local, some of whom are definitely out of jurisdiction.
“It just adds another level of complication for us to deal with but it is doable and we are going to follow up,” he added.
“We’ll make sure those that have been identified will be dealt with accordingly.”
Gilbert said the crowd size and out-of-jurisdiction visitors increase the potential for the protest to be a “super-spreader event” of the virus.
Mayor Diane Therrien, who heavily criticized Hillier and Bernier on Twitter prior to their arrival at Saturday’s protest, said the protests — which have been held weekly — are harming small businesses as they have included marches along George Street in the city’s downtown.
“And keeping people from wanting to come downtown because these thugs want to gather and endanger other people.
“They say they’re doing it for small business but they’re having the opposite effect,” she said.
She along with Peterborough County Warden J. Murray Jones thanked Gilbert and his officers for handling the response with “so much class.”
“Peterborough County is patting you and all of your officers on the back,” said Jones.
“I keep saying we are all in this together but it sure is getting hard to understand that when you see these kinds of numbers of people show up and with all these conspiracy theories that make no sense to everybody. These are people’s lives we are talking about.
“We’re all inconvenienced, we all want to get back to normal. There’s nothing special about you. So let’s buckle down and do what we are supposed to do.”
Therrien noted an issue discussed during Monday’s council meeting over the use of Confederation Square. A permit is required to host gatherings at the Cenotaph and Wall of Honour, such as a Remembrance Day ceremony, however, none is required for the park’s green space.
The city is currently not issuing permits for exclusive use of Confederation Square park under the current Reopening Ontario Act regulation.