Lethbridge police prepared to issue tickets to anti-maskers at Saturday rally
Officials say the education phase is over and they’re prepared to deliver fines at upcoming anti-mask protest.
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- A widely-circulated social media post indicates a group of anti-maskers in Lethbridge are planning to protest the new mandatory provincial mask bylaw at Park Place Shopping Centre.
The post reads:
City officials say it’s disappointing. “We don’t want others to put others in our community at risk and we want people to take this seriously” said Mayor Chris Spearman at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
The Lethbridge police service has been in contact with the organizers. They’re still hoping it won’t go ahead but say they’re prepared if it does. “We will be working with mall security and mall management to make sure we can manage the situation” said police chief Shahin Mehdizadeh “and we have officers ready to respond to any complaints.”
Since the city passed the mandatory face coverings bylaw, in August, they have issued a handful of warnings but no tickets have been handed out. The city’s main focus was on educating residents about the ways to limit the transmission of COVID-19. “We have seen excellent compliance and masks have become the social norm across our city,” said Spearman.
But, Mehdizadeh wants people to know the education phase is over. “It’s based on discretion. We will hand out tickets. I don’t want the public to think that we are going with a heavy-handed approach but when it’s warranted we will hand out tickets” said Mehdizadeh.
The fine for not wearing a face covering in indoor public places in Lethbridge is $100. Police officials say they can also lay criminal charges including “causing a disturbance.”
Both the city and police department say they respect the rights of citizens to express their opinions on the new restrictions but it doesn’t mean they can break the law. “Protesters, and protest organizers who infringe on the rights of other citizens to go about their daily lives will need to be held accountable,” said Mehdizadeh.
“We understand people are tired and frustrated with COVID-19 restrictions,” said Sperman “but it is disappointing to see a small group of people act carelessly and without consideration how they may harm others by ignoring and protesting against COVID restrictions. Those who are against our face-covering bylaw have the right to express their opinions but they do not have the right to put others at risk.”
Lethbridge bylaw officers also have the ability to hand out tickets as they see fit.
Park Place Shopping Centre is not commenting on the planned protest.