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City of Calgary receives more than 200 complaints related to weekly protest in Beltline

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City of Calgary receives more than 200 complaints related to protest in the Beltline
WATCH: Frustrations are growing in Calgary’s's Beltline neighbourhood over protests against COVID-19 health measures. As Adam MacVicar reports, residents say the demonstrations are disruptive while organizers say they have the right to protest. – Feb 22, 2022

People who live in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood are raising concerns about an almost weekly protest in the community.

Nearly every Saturday, thousands of protesters are drawn to Central Memorial Park in the city’s downtown to rally against COVID-19 health measures. The demonstration is followed by a march that snakes through the streets of the area.

Daorcey Le Bray, a 20-year resident of the Beltline, said frustration among people who live in the area is growing.

“There are thousands of people here who feel intimidated by them on a Saturday afternoon in their own community, and… (they) feel like they need to stay inside,” Le Bray told Global News.

Businesses in the area are also reporting disruptions on weekends due to the protests.

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Shelf Life Books is located across the street from Central Memorial Park and said the doorway to their business has been blocked and parking spots outside have been marked as reserved for protesters.

“Shelf Life Books supports everybody’s right to peaceful protest, but we also support everybody’s right to feel safe,” the bookstore’s management said in a statement to Global News.

“Some of the messaging and materials at these gatherings has been toxic, hateful and extremist in nature, and our customers, staff and community have experienced threatening and aggressive interactions.”

The protests prompted Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott to call on affected residents and businesses in the area to report complaints to the City of Calgary through 311.

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“This has been going on for too long, and residents are fatigued, afraid and frustrated,” Walcott tweeted.

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According to the City of Calgary, more than 200 complaints were submitted in relation to the weekend protest.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said Walcott has been on top of the issue since he was elected last year and has been in contact with city administration on how to respond to the frustrations from residents in the Beltline.

“We have evidence of complaints now so some action may be possible,” Gondek said Tuesday. “We will wait and see what our administration recommends we do.”

Gondek said she isn’t sure if administration would recommend enforcement or potential legal action.

It comes after the City of Edmonton was granted an interim injunction in response to noise from similar protests around the Alberta legislature over the last few weekends.

But organizers of the protests in Calgary’s Beltline said they have the right to protest in the area and disruptions, if any, are short-lived.

“We’re certainly not there all day, we’re not noisy all day,” Calgary Freedom March co-organizer Dr. Joanny Lu said. “We’re there for a very short time and we pass, so we don’t stick around.”

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Lu said the protest has grown in size over the last six months with frustrations over COVID-19 health measures and support for the larger protest in Ottawa.

“A lot of people, and that included myself, thought we were all alone, and then we discovered that there were actually groups of people who were organizing,” Lu said. “We have a right to peaceful protest. Now, that also means that we’ve got to be loud because we are very adamant and very determined to let people know that we exist.”

Premier Jason Kenney is set to announce whether the province will be moving to the next step of easing health measures, which will include mask mandates, on Saturday.

According to Lu, the protests will continue until organizers are “100 per cent sure” that the province will not be bringing back those health measures once they are eased.

“Our premier has broken his word many times during these last two years,” Lu said. “So there’s a very low level of trust.”

The Beltline Neighbourhoods Association said it shares in the frustration of residents over the protests and hopes to see the protest moved somewhere else in the city.

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“We’re seeing this protests continue to be permitted to take over streets and neighborhoods, wherever they choose,” Beltline Neighbourhoods Association president Peter Oliver said.

“I think there’s a way for (Calgary Police Service) and the city to still allow these people to protest, but to provide more direction on where they can protest so that it is not such a negative impact and a threat to where thousands of people live.”

The Calgary Police Service did not respond to Global News’ request for comment.

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