No plan by Barrie police to stop anti-lockdown protests as long they remain peaceful

Police, health and bylaw officials have decided education is the best course of action

Several police officers kept an eye on Saturday’s anti-lockdown protest, but they did not interfere with the event.

The turnout at Meridian Place was much smaller than the previous weekend, though questions were raised why dozens of people were allowed to gather unmasked with no physical distancing.

Anti-lockdown protest at Meridian Place on Saturday, Mar. 28, 2021/Barrie

“It comes down to public safety,” said Barrie Police spokesperson Peter Leon. “The people who choose to be there know there are possible risks involved.”

“They can choose to follow public health guidance and direction with respect to COVID-19 protocols.”

Barrie police, bylaw officials and public health met last Thursday to discuss the approach to take with respect to these large gatherings. Leon said it was determined the best course of action was to continue providing the education where and when necessary. He added that enforcement is something available to police.

“It’s in the toolbox. It’s there to be used where and when necessary,” explained Leon. “And we have done that in the past. If we see the need, we will certainly do it again.”

“At the end of the day, it comes down to public safety. People have the right to protest.”

Protests during this pandemic are not something new for Barrie Police. There were large scale protests at Meridian Place last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis.

Justice for Black Lives protest at Meridian Place, June, 2020/Barrie

Leon said crowds for those rallies were ten times what they have experienced lately.

“Any protest that has taken place has been peaceful, and people have been able to depart in the same manner as they arrived.”