A protester in the Open Alberta for Business convoy is accusing Red Deer RCMP of obstructing the demonstration by blocking vehicle access in the city.
But Red Deer RCMP says blockading police vehicles were preventing access to some streets because some landowners didn’t want the convoy on their land.
“They didn’t want the convoy vehicles to congregate on their property. There was no pre-arranged permission,” said Insp Holly Glassford of Red Deer RCMP.
Ryan Audette of Calgary sent a letter of complaint to media, as well as RCMP head offices in Edmonton and Ottawa.
He called the behavior of RCMP at the Feb. 15 protest against government-ordered pandemic restrictions on businesses and citizens “shocking and appalling.”
By barricading streets around the Carnival Cinema and the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, police stopped about 200 demonstrating motorists from exercising their constitutional right to peaceful assembly and free speech, said Audette.
He said Red Deer RCMP were told about the convoy protest in advance, yet vehicles from across the province arrived in Red Deer to find some public roads barricaded so they had to drive “for an extended period” to try to find an alternative route.
He said police cars prevented protesters from gathering near the Carnival Cinema, so motorists ended up gathering in front of the Cambridge Hotel to hear some speeches. Later, police blocked one of the parking lot exits so the convoy was divided by traffic lights, said Audette.
He heard that this follows several months of Red Deer City Hall protesters being “bullied” and harassed by a downtown RCMP officer.
Glassford said the role of police is not to control peaceful protests, but to ensure public safety and the protection of property: “There needs to be an adherence to lawful behavior that does not infringe on the rights of others.”
Red Deer RCMP has heard some reports that some pedestrians and motorists do not feel safe from the downtown protesters. “We are concerned about public safety,” said Glassford — and this includes ensuring protesters are physically distanced to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
She added that anyone with concerns about police behavior can file a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which investigates all incidents independently. “It’s not part of the RCMP.”