Anti-lockdown protesters gather near Sadlon Arena
BARRIE, ONT. -- Barrie's weekly anti-lockdown protest took on a funfair atmosphere and drew a bigger crowd as it shifted from the downtown core to the parking lot of Sadlon Arena.
"We want to cooperate as much as we can with the Barrie police department," said organizer Tyler Nicholson. "They suggested that this would be a good place for all parties. Safer for the kids; it's easier for them to do crowd control."
In a video statement released Friday, police chief Kimberley Greenwood called the rally "unlawful and irresponsible and…definitely not supported by the Barrie Police Service, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the City of Barrie."
The recurring protests had been at Meridian Place in the core until Mayor Jeff Lehman ordered the plaza closed and fenced off by emergency order. Last week, demonstrators gathered at Meridian Place and walked across the street to Centennial Park.
The gathering outside Sadlon Arena featured a concert, barbecue, games, a raffle, and a bouncy castle for children in attendance.
Inspectors with the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) told CTV that a fine would be issued for the inflatable, which they said didn't have a permit and hadn't cleared inspection.
The city had also stressed that the organizers did not have an event permit.
"I'm all about asking for forgiveness rather than asking for permission," Nicholson said. "I don't need nobody's permission; it's in the Charter.
Barrie Police issued five tickets to organizers and participants in Saturday's rally. But a spokesperson for the services insists other attendees will be held accountable.
"We are identifying people within the crowd, and over the next 30 days or so, we'll be in a position to pay those people visits and charge them accordingly," Peter Leon said.
Controversial independent MPP Randy Hillier added a ticket from Barrie to a collection of fines from other similar protests around the province.
"We've got a deep, dark future ahead of us unless we stand up," the Kingston-area politician told CTV. "Lockdowns are a term we use in jails, we lock down prisoners, violent offenders. And that's what we're doing to our country."
Hillier has not been moved by tearful pleas by exhausted doctors and nurses, imploring everyone to stay home and maintain distance to take pressure off hospitals.
"They're full of shit," Hillier insisted. "If you talk to anyone who is in the medical profession who isn't fearful of losing their job, they will tell you that lockdowns cause far more harm than good."
Hillier pointed to a call by the Canadian Paediatric Society on Friday to "immediately" re-start outdoor activities, citing the "devastating effects" of shutdowns on children.
The province's stay-at-home order is in effect until at least May 20. While there are signs the worst of the third wave may be behind us, Simcoe Muskoka's associate medical officer of health cannot foresee restrictions being lifted before June.
There may not be an anti-lockdown protest in Barrie next Saturday. Nicholson says he's been invited to co-host a bigger rally in Toronto on what's being billed as a global day of action.