Premier's response to violence at Red Deer rally 'substandard': organizers
Courtesy: Jeremy Russell
EDMONTON -- Organizers of an anti-racism rally in Red Deer say most political leaders have not taken effective action following a physical and violent confrontation with counter protesters over the weekend.
Callum Daniels, cofounder of the Black and Indigenous Alliance, one of the participating groups in the Sunday event, called reaction from Premier Jason Kenney, Justice Minister Kaycee Madu and Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer "substandard, disappointing, and honestly, quite saddening."
Footage of physical clashes between the rally's volunteer security team and counter-protesters drew national attention earlier in the week and condemnation from several political leaders.
Madu, himself, called the reports of violence disturbing, unacceptable, and a violation of the right to peaceful assembly.
“Disagreeing does not entitle one to use violence. We can and should disagree on public policy and discuss issues without resorting to violence,” he told media during a press conference on Tuesday.
In the days since, the premier has reiterated his justice minister's remarks, commenting on Sept. 22 that Madu "is right."
On Thursday, CTV News Edmonton asked the premier for a comment on the matter. A spokesperson instead pointed to Madu's comments and a speech by Kenney in the Alberta Legislature on June 18.
"Mr. Kenney had a more visceral response to the destruction of a statue of John A. MacDonald in Montreal, which, I will remind people, is an inanimate object," Daniels told media.
"Premier Jason Kenney, may I remind you this was an anti-racism community conversation? I would argue that if someone was to oppose or disagree with an anti-racism event, it would make them racist."
He also criticized Veer for "fail(ing) to take action on the violence and racism within the City of Red Deer" and RCMP for a lack of "interest" in opening an investigation before media reports.
'YOU FEEL UP AGAINST A WALL'
Red Deer RCMP have told media the violence seen in the viral videos happened before officers had arrived on scene on Sunday and, while there, members ensured peace was kept. Those of the Red Deer Against Racism, Black and Indigenous Alliance, Rural Alberta Against Racism groups disagree that police were effective.
As well, the account from RCMP is that two investigations were opened: one into footage of an alleged assault they had been told about on Sunday, and a criminal investigation upon seeing other videos taken before officers arrived.
Supt. Gerald Grobmeier said it was possible charges could follow from the latter investigation, but no charges had been laid because they needed the names of victims, perpetrators, and witnesses.
- READ MORE: Reported violence at Red Deer anti-racism rally 'unacceptable, period': Alta. justice minister
On Thursday, Taylor McNally, director and cofounder of Rural Alberta Against Racism, said she expected police to lay charges and that she wanted RCMP to sit down with the groups to discuss how to better prepare for future events.
Having received threatening or intimidating calls and messages that she estimated number in the hundreds, McNally said the danger she faces is clear.
With most of them anonymous, "We're literally on our own out here," she told media. "And when something happens that's so public and police still won't do anything, you feel up against a wall on what you can do."
Daniels added, "They were coming to attack us. It's right there on their pages and their comment threads. I don't know if I believe 100 per cent police were actually watching these groups as they claim they were."
Moving foward, the groups plan to host their events on private property and online, where they can better control who attends.
"We're not going to stop just becuase of this," McNally said. "Obviously, it shows us why we need to keep going and doing this."