Aylmer, Ont. deals with fallout, losses of weekend protest
AYLMER, ONT. -- The fallout continues in Aylmer following a weekend that attracted close to 2,000 people to a protest over COVID-19 safety measures.
Video posted to social media appears to show a confrontation involving a water-hose between anti-mask demonstrators and a homeowner.
While that was happening, CTV News cameras caught a scuffle along the so-called Freedom March parade route between protestors and mask supporters.
Mary French, the town’s mayor, makes no apologies for the town declaring a state of emergency in the day’s leading up to Saturday’s unsanctioned event.
“I know I’ve been judged on it but yes I’m very confident that we did the right thing. And a lot of people don’t understand what a state of emergency is, and it’s just a protection for everyone.”
The protest went ahead in spite of provincial rules that cap outdoor gatherings at 25.
Aylmer Police Inspector Nick Novacich say investigators are reviewing video of the event, but said he would not comment at this time on whether COVID-19-related charges will be laid.
“How do you identify everyone that’s there, and is charging every participant the right approach to take? Or is it the people that are organizing all these mass events that are bringing all the people together, which is more of a danger for our community especially.”
The unsanctioned event forced the closure of Talbot Street for at least one hour, and closed much of the business section.
Local Chamber of Commerce President Jamie Chapman said it was a day lost for local merchants, at a time when businesses are already hurting because of the pandemic.
“That’s a pretty big hit. We’re starting to move into Christmastime, and people are starting to get shopping. The day was gorgeous. We could have had many people from out of town come to our lovely small town and, it kind of has an impact on all of us.”
Prior to the rally, Southwestern Public Health issued a plea to the public to protect the community by avoiding large crowds.
Now long-term care residents are being told not to leave home.
Following a recent surge in local COVID-19 cases the health unit sent a letter to long-term care and retirement homes to discontinue short-term absences.
It went on to say that temporary overnight absences may occur if they don’t take place in Aylmer.
A family member of a long-term care resident who spoke to CTV News but did not want her name used, said her mother’s home informed her that the decision is also related to the weekend rally as a potential super-spreader event.