With more protests scheduled this week in Inglewood by anti-mandate anti-government members, and also counter-protesters, the Inglewood BIA is asking them to move along—from 9 Avenue SE, that is.
The association that represents local businesses is asking protesters to stop blocking pedestrians and causing shoppers to avoid Inglewood’s main street. The solution, they said, was for protesters to move to the new 9 Avenue SE bridge or to the 12 Street SE bridge.
“It is just trying to convince the protesters to move to either one of the bridges, so that they’re not imposing and creating problems on the sidewalks, and creating an uncomfortable situation in front of the businesses,” said Dan Allard, Chair for the Inglewood BIA.
He said that the weekly anti-mandate anti-government protests that have been held at various points along 9 Avenue in front of businesses for several years have been demoralizing for both business owners and workers.
“Not all of the protesters are rude, but the reality is some of them are, and some of them are very confrontational,” said Allard.
“It can be scary for people that are just trying to go to work, and that’s had a really big impact on some of the folks that we represent that are in the area.”
Counter protests tried, but failed to achieve objective in November
Those impacts led to a brief series of counter-protests by business owners last year in November, after protesters drove away businesses and caused doors to be closed at 4 p.m. during what should have been a busy holiday shopping season.
Counter-protesters at the time were fearful of identifying who they were representing in the business community due to threats of retaliation. Allard said that fear still exists to this day among members of the regular protest group.
“It’s not the entire group that’s bad stewards… but there are some folks in there that we do have to be careful about, and so it’s demoralizing for the community for sure,” he said.
Business owners stopped the counter-protests after several tries after it became clear they were doing more harm than good.
“It’s it’s clear that they’re not going to stop protesting, and in our experience, so far, counter protests have just further exacerbated the problem.”
With the upcoming counter-protests this week, Allard said that he expected a few business owners to attend, but that it wouldn’t be promoted by the BIA.
Negotiated end to protests is desired
Allard said that he had spoken to a protest leader during another one of the regular protests the group has held in Mission on a weekly basis.
“The one fella who appears to be sort of the leader over there, told me that they were about to wrap things up prior to the counter-protests happening, and then that sort of gave them more fuel and energize them to continue protesting,” Allard said.
“Whether I believe that or not, whether anybody wants to believe that or not, is a guessing game, but that’s the narrative.”
The same message was relayed to LWC in November by members of the Inglewood protest. At that time, the group behind the protest had weekly protests scheduled into the new year on their social media channels.
Allard also called the response so far from the city a demoralizing one.
“It’s demoralizing to know that the city doesn’t seem to have our back. They’ll show up and make sure that they have a presence, but that’s not enough.”
“It almost adds relevance to the protesters when the police arrive because they feel like they’re important, and it adds importance to their cause.”
He has called on the city to do more to negotiate an end to the protests that are held weekly.
Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said his stance on the Inglewood protests hasn’t changed much since he spoke about them in late 2022. He said at one point the protests in the area were slowly petering out until the counter-protests began. Carra said that gave the protesters a “new lease on life.”
“As aggravating as they are, all they want is attention,” said Carra.
“And if you counter protest, you’re giving them all the attention they want.”
While the city did obtain a temporary injunction at one point to curb escalating Beltline protests, they’ve generally allowed the freedom for people to assemble and protest.
No desire to see an escalation of violence
He said that the BIA is not against people exercising their freedom and right to protest, but that they want a peaceful solution to allow visitors to enjoy the neighbourhood.
“I know that the protesters think that they’re not impeding the sidewalk, and they’re not obstructing traffic from walking by.”
“But the reality is the regular citizen in Calgary is non confrontational, and if they’re trying to walk to a business that’s halfway down the block, and they have to go through these protesters who are now on every corner of that intersection, they’re definitely not going to go to that place.”
He said that he didn’t want to see what occurred on 17 Avenue, where there was escalating tension and the potential for violence between protest marchers and resident counter-protesters.
“We really hope as the BIA that there isn’t violence. It puts the community in a really tough position, especially the businesses on that intersection, so we really want to push the narrative of let’s be good stewards in the neighbourhood on all sides, including protesters.”
“If you want to get your opinions out there, by all means, go ahead and do it, but let’s do it in a way that respects the neighbourhood.”