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'Leave us alone': Beltline residents beg protesters to stop disrupting their community

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Beltline residents and businesses are pushing back against what they call "disgusting" weekly protests in their community.

A group of people who live near or on the route the so-called "Freedom Protests" take are telling the group to leave their neighbourhood and not come back.

"They don't primarily live here in the Beltline," resident Kel told CTV News. "They live in the suburbs or outside of Calgary altogether. Then they come here to harass us. Leave us alone."

Saturday, Kel and a few dozen neighbours met the parade head-on.

Police separated the two sides with a line stretching across 17th Ave. The Calgary Police Service estimated 2,000 people were involved in the demonstrations in a release Saturday evening.

The protesters eventually crossed the police line to wave flags at the residents and call them "sheep."

CTV News spotted multiple verbal altercations along patios on the route, including one furious diner who was disrupted by a megaphone some metres away from where she was eating.

The City and Calgary Police Service have received hundreds of complaints about the weekly protests.

Tensions are boiling over.

"Nothing is happening, nothing is changing, they're still harassing people, they're still closing off businesses," Hunter Yaworski said. "Just go home. Stop ruining our Saturday."

Mark Neufeld, police chief, acknowledged the noise earlier this week, saying he feels sorry for the residents of the Beltline.

He says the price-tag of overtime hours and officer redeployment is growing. But Neufeld also reminded Calgarians that the group has a right to protest.

Most health restrictions have been lifted in Alberta.

Group member Jake Eskesen says the protests are continuing for other reasons.

In a statement, Eskesen said the resignation of Premier Jason Kenney is first in their list of demands.

"We want the Premiers (sic) resignation and an investigation into AHS' handling of the pandemic," it reads. "If the Premier refuses to resign there will be a concerted effort in our ranks to remove Jason Kenney via his upcoming leadership review."

The protesters are also "calling for constitutional reform that would prevent similar government overreach in the future." 

According to CPS, the opposing protests became involved in a confrontation for more than an hour.

"Our members worked with all parties in attempt to negotiate an alternative that allowed them to peacefully demonstrate, however after receiving limited cooperation and recognizing the volatility of the situation, officers had to take action to avoid further escalation of the crowd and minimize the disruption to nearby residents and businesses," police said.

"Officers on scene collected a significant amount of evidence today and will be working with investigators to review the actions of all parties to determine any potential enforcement."

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