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Arrests will be made in Beltline protests: CPS Chief Mark Neufeld

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said they are prepared to make arrests and there will be no mobile protests in the Beltline Saturday.

Neufeld made the comments at a special meeting of the Calgary Police Commission (CPC) on Friday afternoon. It came on the heels of a temporary injunction granted to the City of Calgary that enhanced enforcement powers.

CPC Chair Shawn Cornett started the meeting by acknowledging the volume of submissions on the Beltline protests. More than 400 submissions were received prior to the meeting.

“Your community has experienced a disproportionate impact from these protests. It cannot continue,” Cornett said.

She said it’s fair to ask tough questions of the Calgary Police Service response.

“The Service has a job to do this weekend,” she said.

“We also need to support the service as they work to pull all the levers they can to resolve this issue. These are challenging times in our city.”

Members and the public heard the Calgary police plan to curb ongoing protests that have dogged the Beltline community for the past two years.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks. Last weekend, police had to use force against counter-protesters to make way for the main protest group.

Calgary police said the weekend escalation forced them to take a look back at their response.

“A lot has happened since the events of last Saturday,” said Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld.

“CPS advised that we would be making adjustments to our approach to these protests based on our experiences of March 12.”

Operations planned

Planning has been ongoing with the City of Calgary, Alberta Sheriffs and Alberta Health Services, according to CPS.

Acting Insp. Peter Siegenthaler, who oversees major events for CPS, said the goal is public safety.

“The service will respond to any unlawful and or unsafe activity in the necessary reasonable and proportionate matter,” he said.

“Our objectives are going to be making the peace and protect public safety, minimize community and traffic disruptions to early intervention and enforcement for assistance, support businesses and residents of private dwellings by preventing trespassing and harassment.”

He said they will limit the movement of large protest groups to static locations. They’ll also limit interaction between the different groups.

Supt. Jason Bobrowich said the tactics they use will be based on the behaviour of the people who attend. He said their enforcement would include bylaw and related licensing and potential for road closures in advance of the planned protests.

He said there would be high visibility of public safety unit members, and there would be a traffic safety plan in place. That would be scaled up or scaled down depending on behaviours.

“We are aware that every action that we take will cause a reaction and we must be measured and thoughtful,” he said.

The CPS said de-escalation is everyone’s responsibility and everyone can contribute.

The big question: Enforcement

Chief Neufeld clarified that in a typical situation, a summons or a ticket issued for a bylaw infraction meant that after a ticket the person could continue on with their behaviour.

He said the injunction makes that different.

“What the injunction does is it actually prohibits any of those behaviours that we talked about (in the injunction),” he said.

Whether it’s the traffic disruptions, the loud noises, amplification, “you could actually be arrested,” he said.

When asked if the Calgary police would actually make arrests on Saturday, the Chief’s response was clear.

“Yes,” he said.

He added there would be a significant police presence in the Beltline Saturday.

Chief Neufeld said one of the most potent pieces of the injunction was the prevention of the marches. That won’t happen, he said.

“There will be no marching tomorrow, there will be no mobile protests. And there will be nobody behaving that way down on the Beltline,” Chief Neufeld said.