'All hands on deck' for Saturday's anti-mask protest: Aylmer, Ont. police
AYLMER, ONT. -- Police in Aylmer, Ont. say it will be all hands on deck Saturday as they gear up for an unsanctioned demonstration by anti-mask protestors.
The event prompted a state of emergency declaration from the town, as residents like Daniel and Vanessa Doiedgeo say they have been alarmed by all the unwanted attention.
“Probably a good thing for a state of emergency like if it gets out of hand,” said Vanessa.
The state of emergency was declared over fears that a so-called Freedom March by those opposing COVID-19 safety measures could attract counter demonstrations, and then get out of hand.
That declaration also led to threats against Aylmer Mayor Mary French, which have been reported to police.
The planned march follows a similar protest on Oct. 24 that saw hundreds of people without masks marching through town to the Palmer Park band shell in the core.
Aylmer Police Inspector Nick Novacich said in both cases the organizer failed to acquire the permits to hold such an event.
“We’re still reviewing everything that happened on that date. We will monitor this event as well, ensuring that the public peace is kept, and that our citizens are kept safe from any type of disruption, any type of conflict that happens. And after this event again we’ll be looking at the total package as to what took place and what charges should be pursued.”
He said any groupings of 25 people or more could be subject to charges for violating COVID-19 orders.
The march is set to begin at the community complex in the west end of the town. One of the casualties of the unsanctioned event is minor hockey, as all games and ice times have been cancelled to avoid any potential conflicts.
The president of the Aylmer Chamber of Commerce, Jamie Chapman, says it will be business-as-usual for local shops, but nevertheless, many business owners are still worried.
“It does make us nervous. We hope that it’s a peaceful rally. There’s no reason why it can’t be. Everyone has a right to protest. They are supposed to keep the numbers under 25, which unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen.”
CTV News reached out to the event organizer, Kimberly Neudorf, but she has not responded.