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Calgary police outdoor rink arrest creates hockey buzz

Calgary police are defending actions taken Thursday against a 21-year-old city hockey prospect who wouldn’t leave an outdoor ice surface.

The man, who identified himself Sunday as Ocean Wiesblatt, was involved in an altercation with Calgary police on Thursday. That incident was captured on video that has been widely shared on social media.

According to police, a 21-year-old man was arrested for obstruction of an officer and resisting arrest after trying to avoid a ticket and refusing to identify himself. Police said it’s also an offence to physically resist and pull away from officers during an arrest.

“This video only shows a portion of what was a long interaction,” read a Saturday Calgary police release on the matter.

Police said bylaw services was first called to a Calgary outdoor rink in the community of Southwood after the number of skaters was believed to be more than the posted 40 people. It was limited due to ongoing public health restrictions in Alberta.

They were called after the group refused to comply, police said. In the video, all of the skaters had eventually vacated the ice, except for Wiesblatt.

Police said officers asked the crowd to disperse and explained that health orders required it. They said they asked the man to leave and they said he was given multiple opportunities to only receive a ticket.

Others at the scene have refuted there was an explanation by officers on why the ice was being cleared. Onlookers said that’s what prompted questions by Wiesblatt.

The situation escalated into the physical altercation that was shown on video.

(We’re choosing not to show the video because it’s been widely circulated and doesn’t show the entire incident.)

Public debate on the arrest

The incident sparked an intense debate on the actions taken by Calgary police.

The clarity of Calgary’s outdoor skating rules also came under fire. Further, several accounts suggest Wiesblatt was asking questions for clarification of the rules and was not combative.

Those are the rules on city-run skating rinks. This one is not a city-run outdoor rink.

Calgary police Supt. Ryan Ayliffe addressed the incident after a question during Friday’s media briefing.

“Although this is one event that you’re asking about, we are seeing our officers continue putting these almost untenable positions where they have to defuse these situations or support bylaw in defusing situations where Calgarians are still working through these rules and trying to figure out the space that they have to be in to be safe,” Supt. Ayliffe said.

Many Calgarians took issue with the fact Calgary police were cracking down on the skating rink, but had issued only modest number of tickets to anti-mask protesters in downtown Calgary despite four rallies.

Since Nov. 25, 25 tickets have been issued under the Public Health Act. A further eight tickets have been issued since Dec. 9 for failing to wear a face covering.

Police have stated many times before that tickets aren’t issued immediately at the rallies because they don’t want to risk the safety of protesters or officers by escalating any confrontation.

A weekend release from the Walk For Freedom organizers said Saturday’s protest was met by a “massive police and bylaw officer force.”  They said fines were being handed out, though this hasn’t yet been confirmed by police.

Clarifying use on Calgary outdoor rinks

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’d hoped they’d get further guidance from the province on the rules around outdoor rinks.

Outdoor rinks are open and you can go with your family cohorts – the people who live in your house, he said.

“If there are other people on the rink, you don’t have to go home,” Mayor Nenshi said.

“You shouldn’t really start lots of big games and pickup hockey with people around you. There’s contact body contact and stuff you don’t want to be doing that.”

He said there’s no hard and fast rule on the number of people who can be on the rinks. The mayor said if people are using it as an excuse for an outdoor gathering, that’s a problem.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry said they’ve been getting a lot of questions on outdoor rinks.

“It’s really about the ability to maintain two metres distance from those that are not in your household,” she said.

Rink operators have put up capacity signs near the ice entrace, Chief Henry said.

“So please be respectful when you see those signs,” she said.

She reiterated the two metres distance and why hockey isn’t allowed outside of members of your household.