Tensions are rising between two groups, one opposing, one promoting COVID-19 restrictions in Kelowna.
A planned ‘mega rally’ for downtown on Saturday (Feb. 13) resulted in more than 100 protesters gathering at Stuart Park, across from several counter-protesters stationed in front of Kelowna City Hall.
The counter-protesters shouted through megaphones, attempting to drown out the messages of those with microphones across the street.
At one point, a protester crossed the street and approached a counter-protester with a megaphone, slapping it away from his mouth. The altercation attracted the presence of police who were parked nearby in unmarked cars.
— Michael Rodriguez (@MichaelRdrguez) February 13, 2021
So far, the anti-restriction protest organizers have received thousands in fines from police for violating COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings. Despite this, they continue to gather.
Many could be seen holding signs and waving at drivers. A merchandise table was set up where clothing and signs with the word ‘freedom’ were being sold. Children could be heard coming to the microphone to take their stance on the regulations.
“It’s fighting for your freedom. It’s being stripped away, and it shouldn’t be. It’s Canada, for crying out loud — it’s sad that our rights are being taken over something that’s false,” said an anti-restriction protester who refused to give their name.
“Everyone wants our freedom back. That’s all. It’s just our rights. Our freedoms. It’s all we ask for.”
Tyler Paulson, the individual shown in the clip with the megaphone, has been showing up to the protests each weekend to counter-protest. However, recently, he said things have been escalating.
“Someone needs to show up and say ‘No, this isn’t okay,’” Paulson said.
“It’s (physical violence) definitely escalating more… nobody’s actually gotten hit yet, but there are tensions rising, yeah.”
Alongside Paulson, a small group of counter-protesters stood in front of city hall, observing the gathering.
“I’m against the culture, the mentality they’re spreading. And to me, that’s the trouble,” said Reuben Scott.
Last week, Kelowna’s mayor and RCMP superintendent discouraged people from attending the rally.
However, despite the warnings to avoid the area and the increased police presence downtown during the rally, RCMP did not issue any fines as a result of the event.
“We have gathered evidence in this matter, and will be in discussions with our partners in the BC Health Authority and the BC Prosecution Service on the next steps in this investigation,” said Supt. Kara Triance.
Editor’s note: A photo showing an interaction between police, and a man in a beige vest, unintentionally portrayed a nearby male as being involved in the altercation. The argument that prompted the presence of police did not involve the man in the gray toque.
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