Hamilton bus drivers being warned to watch out for possible anti-mask protests on city buses

HSR drivers are being warned "out of an abundance of caution" about possible anti-mask protests that could take place on city buses on Saturday. Lisa Polewski / Global News

The Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) is warning its drivers of possible anti-mask protests on public transit scheduled for this weekend.

Maureen Cosyn Heath, the city’s director of transit, said they’ve heard about the possibility of protests against masking and COVID-19 protocols on buses on Saturday.

While nothing has indicated that there will be specific action in Hamilton, she said they have alerted operators “out of an abundance of caution.”

Read more: Hamilton warns of possible HSR disruptions due to staff not vaccinated against COVID

“We felt it was best to make sure that our operations staff and our on-road supervisors were prepared for the weekend to keep them safe and also keep our other customers safe as well,” she told Global News on Friday afternoon.

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Bus drivers are being urged to use their best professional judgment and press a ‘panic button’ that will contact the HSR control room – and subsequently, Hamilton police – if they feel there is an immediate threat to their safety or the safety of the other passengers.

Cosyn Heath also said drivers can skip a bus stop if there appears to be a gathering of anti-mask protesters waiting to get on board.

“If they’re approaching a stop and there’s clearly a gathering of people with a certain message that doesn’t align with our safety-first approach, then they have the authority to make a judgment call to bypass that stop.”

Read more: 2 facing charges following ‘anti-vaccine’ protest in Hamilton’s Gore Park

If drivers see that there are any would-be passengers at that same stop that do not appear to be part of the gathering, Cosyn Heath said they can contact the control room and let them know so an on-route supervisor can be sent to look after them.

She added that the majority of passengers on HSR buses do follow the COVID-19 protocols and wear masks, saying “it makes the bus driver’s job much easier.”

The protests are tied to a challenge that has been circulating on social media among anti-maskers and plans to target various modes of transportation, some of which require proof of vaccination.

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