'What order supersedes the other?' Freedom March pits emergency orders vs. charter rights
ST. THOMAS, ONT. -- A St. Thomas business is telling protesters in this weekend's 'Freedom March' they are not welcome.
A flyer on social media indicated The Line Canada would hold a rally at the Canada Southern (CASO)Railway Station Saturday morning.
However the CASO Station fought back, derailing the plans.
"We are a private property, any person(s), gatherings or vehicles who do not have authorization by myself or an authorization from the Board of Directors will not be allowed access to any property or buildings on CASO Property,” says Executive Director Larry Longfield.
This has forced a change in plans by the organizers. According to the St. Thomas Police Service (STPS), the rally will now begin at Memorial Arena, and march up the Whistle Stop Trail to Moore Street.
Meanwhile STPS is preparing around-the-clock for the upcoming rally.
"It's a complex plan," says Tanya Calvert, corporate communications coordinator for STPS. "It covers everything from staffing, resources, traffic flow, emergency response, crowd coordination and vehicle response."
The STPS has been inundated with phone calls from concerned citizens who are calling for police and the city to stop this rally. Despite the fact police say they don't want the expected 200 protesters, their hands are somewhat tied.
"We have to balance the emergency order in place with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which does allow for peaceful assembly and protesting," says Calvert. "It's a difficult situation. What order supersedes the other? Which one would ultimately reign in a court of law?"
The Line Canada has upcoming rallies planned this week for Sarnia and Woodstock.
"Generally the message is the same across the country," says George Roche, media coordinator for The Line Canada. "We don't believe COVID-19 a good enough reason to give up our civil liberties."
The Line also says it isn't out to hurt anyone, and is willing to debate their beliefs.
"What we find is when we bring knowledge to the town is...people are attacking the people, not the problem,"
"For 28 weeks we don't have a case with 2,500-12,000 people showing up to Dundas square," adds Roche.
"Over the past 28 weeks, had Doug Ford carried out his threats, we would have a group of people handing the government $600,000 in fines and we haven't received a ticket. We haven't had a case with people standing elbow to elbow standing up to their rights and freedoms. We've proven that there is no COVID to the extent to that we have been led to believe there is."
Some businesses along Talbot Street had indicated they would close Saturday. However if the rally is now staying away from the main street, that could change by the weekend.
Calvert says STPS will lay charges if they are required, "The problem is the event hasn't happened so at this point we are in preparation mode."
They hope to be able to handle the event with their own resources and not require help from the OPP. Calvert is also asking counter-protesters to stay away so not to further drain any resources on the day of the rally.
"We need to preserve the peace first and foremost and protect the people and property in St. Thomas."