Officers in Hamilton and Niagara Region laid more charges on the weekend in connection with the organizing of rallies protesting the province’s current COVID-19 regulations that restrict gatherings and have kept non-essential businesses closed.
Hamilton police say seven people were given court summons after another “Hugs Over Masks” event Sunday in the forecourt of City Hall by Bay Street South and Main Street. The event drew nine people who failed to follow current social distancing and face-covering protocols, according to a police spokesperson.
Authorities have laid multiple charges over the past few months for multiple Hugs Over Masks events, which have been a regular occurrence in Hamilton on Sundays since July 2020.
The group claims that the protests are in support of “restoring our liberties” in Ontario and that current COVID-19 measures are “unnecessarily harming Ontarians’ health and rights.”
Last month a similar rally on April 19 drew just under 50 people and saw a pair of organizers charged.
On Monday, Hamilton’s emergency operations centre (EOC) director Paul Johnson said in some cases charges laid at the events are only a start and that the city could follow up with police on more in ongoing investigations.
“We are really focused on making sure that the organizers of these events are found and that charges are laid appropriately,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile, police in St. Catharines laid charges against a 37-year-old Niagara Falls man at a similar gathering at city hall on Saturday. The accused faces three charges under the Reopening Ontario Act.
Further charges are pending, according to Niagara police.
Niagara has seen a number of anti-lockdown protests in the region over the last month.
A gathering on April 17 in Niagara Falls saw a handful of people charged under the criminal code for causing a nuisance and endangering lives or safety of the public for the “organized” gathering, police said.
Niagara Region’s chair has even filed a complaint with the integrity commissioner for an early April rally in St. Catharines that included the mayor of West Lincoln after he was issued a court summons for his participation.View link »