Protesters, police clash during Fredericton rally against COVID-19 restrictions

·3 min read
Protesters swarm a police vehicle Saturday after a protester was arrested. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)
Protesters swarm a police vehicle Saturday after a protester was arrested. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)

Police and protesters clashed outside Fredericton city hall during a protest against COVID-19 restrictions Saturday afternoon.

Police say there were two arrests.

The downtown rally began at about 1 p.m. Hundreds of people assembled at the corner of Queen and York streets, many unmasked, with some carrying signs indicating opposition to government-imposed restrictions and vaccination mandates.

Police say about 400 people attended the rally, with uniformed officers from the Fredericton Police Force and the Department of Justice and Public Safety in attendance.

At about 2 p.m., an argument broke out between a small group of protesters and officers. A man could later be seen being escorted away in handcuffs.

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

Other protesters followed as the man was led into a police vehicle parked on Queen Street.

Moments later, another man was seen in a scuffle with officers near the vehicle before being taken to the ground and held down by several police officers.

As police prepared to drive away with the first man who was arrested, protesters swarmed the vehicle, prompting other officers to move in and push them away.

Police were later seen picking up the other arrested man off the ground and walking him to the police station further down the street.

In an email Saturday evening, Fredericton Police Force spokesperson Alycia Bartlett confirmed two men were arrested during the protest.

Bartlett said the men are facing a number of criminal charges in addition to fines for failing to follow the province's Emergency Measures Act.

Shane Fowler/CBC
Shane Fowler/CBC

Bartlett said several other tickets were issued to organizers and participants at the rally for violating the Emergency Measures Act. Other individuals have been identified and will be issued tickets "promptly," she said.

She shared a brief written statement from Fredericton Police Chief Roger Brown, who said it was unfortunate that organizers continued to promote the event despite the pandemic affecting so many in the community.

"The tickets issued for those involved demonstrates the importance of holding to account those who continue to ignore the rules, putting public health and safety at risk," Brown stated.

Bartlett said the force had encouraged organizers against gathering ahead of the protest.

She said the protest was mostly peaceful, but added there was "a small group of citizens who acted to incite dissension, creating a dangerous and potentially violent situation."

Shane Fowler/CBC
Shane Fowler/CBC

The protest was held despite New Brunswick being in Level 3 of its COVID-19 Winter Plan, which prohibits public gatherings.

It also went ahead following criticism from a New Brunswick cabinet minister toward the Fredericton Police Force over messaging around how the protest would be handled.

In a series of tweets beginning on Thursday, Education and Early Childhood Minister Dominic Cardy called out the police force, asking why the "illegal" gathering was being allowed under the rules of New Brunswick's COVID-19 emergency order, and suggesting their enforcement of the law is selective.

It was in response to a statement the force issued on its social media channels on Thursday saying it was aware of the planned protest, and that the force had contacted the organizers to discuss their intentions and inform them of possible consequences of gathering without following public health measures.

"We continue to take a measured approach to encourage and promote compliance with COVID-19 guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus," the force's statement said.

"Tickets or other enforcement action is possible if organizers or participants are not following public health directives."

Protesters on Saturday said another protest was planned for Moncton on Sunday.

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