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Incident caught on video in Barrie prompts the City's decision to remove all posters from utility poles

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Wednesday night's council meeting touched on enforcing regulations surrounding posters on utility poles in the City of Barrie, a fairly mundane issue, but it stemmed from a contentious incident last week that sparked an internal investigation by the Barrie BIA.

A video posted to social media showing Barrie BIA board member Sarah Jensen confronted by a woman for removing posters of Israeli citizens kidnapped by Hamas during the October 7 attack sparked outrage online.

In an email to CTV News on Thursday, Jensen stated, "My emotions got the better of me when I was faced with dozens of posters of kidnapped Israeli citizens posted in downtown Barrie. I took some of those posters down and was subsequently confronted and filmed by the person who had put them up."

She added that she didn't act out of hate. "But I acted rashly and didn't consider that my actions would cause hurt to Jewish people in our community. I apologize to everyone who feels outraged or unsafe because of my actions. And I apologize for the disrespect that my actions showed towards the victims and their families. My actions were wrong and divisive, and in hindsight, I see that they only worsened the situation."

City Councillor and Barrie BIA board member Craig Nixon said the BIA is taking the incident seriously.

"They are currently conducting an internal investigation. It is a human resources issue, so I certainly can not speak to it, but they are conducting an investigation," Nixon said, adding the investigation results would determine whether remedial action would be needed.

The incident spurred a discussion at Wednesday's council meeting, where the City decided all posters and signs would be removed from utility poles regardless of their messages.

A poster of a kidnapped Israeli citizen is taped to a utility pole in Barrie, Ont. (CTV News)

"There has been an agreement for our city municipal workers to respectfully remove those photos. There's been a lot of help and support given by the synagogue on that," Nuttall added.

City Clerk Wendy Cook said the bylaw prohibits signs from being posted on utility poles "unless there is a health and safety risk, or the poster impacts the operation of the utility pole it would not be removed immediately."

In her statement to CTV News, Jensen clarified her actions that day were her own and didn't reflect that of the Barrie BIA, its board, members or staff.

"Like many others, I've felt frustrated and powerless; it's those feelings that led me to act impulsively without thinking my actions through, and for that, I sincerely apologize," she stated. "I hope for a ceasefire, the safe return of all the hostages, and an equitable, peaceful solution to be found."

CTV News reached out to the woman who posted the video to social media, but she was unavailable for comment.

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