More than 100 tickets to be issued for weekend car rally
Last week we became aware of several planned demonstrations that limited physical contact by using vehicle convoys. Along with our partners at the City of Calgary, we stressed the importance of obeying all traffic laws to organizers and participants and called on them to conduct themselves with public safety as a priority in a news release that was issued last Thursday. At the same time, our Major Events and Emergency Management Section (MEEMS) attempted to work with organizers to establish a route and traffic safety plan.
Organizers initially indicated there would be around 200 vehicles participating in a rally planned for Sunday, May 16, 2021, in a route they outlined throughout the downtown. However, during the event, the rally grew to an estimated 1,000 vehicles that deviated from the planned route and caused significant traffic congestion along with safety concerns throughout the downtown over a five-hour period.
As with other protest enforcement efforts, our priority at the time of the event is to ensure the safety of the public, attendees and our officers. At the time of the rally, officers worked hard to ensure the safety of pedestrians and other motorists, while collecting evidence of serious safety issues and Traffic Safety Act infractions.
Vehicles driving down the wrong side of the road, running red lights, blocking intersections for significant periods of time, drivers on their cellphones while passengers (including young children) hung from windows and sunroofs. Stunting, firing of flares and fireworks from within vehicles or in crowds, and significant noise levels late into the evening led to several complaints from residents in the area. Calgary 9-1-1 received more than 50 complaints from citizens concerned about safety and upset by the significant disruption to their community.
Body Worn Cameras, In Car Digital Video cameras and traffic light cameras all captured evidence during the event of those exhibiting stunting or traffic violations. The investigation is expected to lead to approximately 100 summonses being issued to the registered owners of the vehicles who participated in the offences. Attempting to provide tickets at the time of the event may have resulted in escalating the situation with the large group.
Two arrests occurred during the duration of the event: one for mischief to property and another for an altercation. The investigation into those incidents continues.
While we appreciate the decision of rally organizers to consider an approach that adheres to current public health orders, all rally participants are required to abide by traffic laws and the safety of fellow pedestrians and motorists must remain a priority.
This information is not intended to paint all those that participated in the rally with the same brush. The violation tickets are being issued based solely on the behaviours of the participants who failed to adhere to traffic laws and risked their own safety or that of others. We also appreciate that it can be difficult for organizers of these events to fully anticipate the number of attendees and convey all of the agreed upon rules of engagement to all participants.
Regardless of challenges at this event, we vow to continue to work closely with the organizers for future protests that allow for freedom of expression without putting participants, other members of the public or police officers at risk. We would like to stress the importance of protest organizers reaching out to work with us in the planning. It is not uncommon for attendance at these events to exceed the estimates, which can make them very difficult to manage on the ground.
Thank you for your continued cooperation and for your understanding as we prioritize public safety during multiple planned events.