Reported violence at Red Deer anti-racism rally 'unacceptable, period': Alta. justice minister
EDMONTON -- A criminal investigation has been launched after an anti-racism rally on Sunday in Red Deer turned violent.
New Justice Minister Kaycee Madu called videos of the apparent confrontation disturbing and unacceptable.
“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 last-minute press conference on Tuesday.
Videos from the Sunday event, which surfaced online in the following days, appear to show the counter-protesting group attending the anti-racism rally.
In the footage, captured by rally attendee Jeremy Russell, tension grows amongst the crowd and reaches a fever pitch after a man enters the camera frame and seems to push another man’s head.
As the shouts and expletives increase, others are purportedly pushed and shoved, too.
At one point, someone says into a megaphone, “Antifa, go home.”
At another point, a man seemingly part of the counter-protest says, “You wanna go? Let’s dance right now. You shut the f*** up.”
"These white supremacists brought violence and our peaceful security were assaulted," is how one organizer, Kisha Daniels, described the altercation.
But a member of the counter-protesters said they had a message to voice, too.
"Do I agree with what they did on their side was appropriate? No. What they did was disgusting," Patrick King said during a Facebook live session.
“I have seen select clips of the protest in Red Deer on Sunday and I am admittedly disturbed,” Madu said.
“I have been publicly clear about this: Violence and threat of violence at peaceful protests are unacceptable, period.”
The justice minister told media it would be inappropriate for the ministry itself to direct police to lay charges, but that he had been informed by RCMP a criminal investigation had begun.
Questioned about the timeline of complaints and investigations opened, Red Deer RCMP Officer in Charge Supt. Gerald Grobmeier explained that events started before officers had arrived on scene, including the alleged assault captured on camera.
“There was an initial investigation and then as of yesterday, we launched a larger investigation," he told media in a police conference Tuesday afternoon.
"There was an initial investigation just for one particular event, not what we saw on the video. As soon as we became aware of the video and learned there was more to it, prior to our arrival, we opened up an investigation.”
According to Grobmeier, there have been three similar rallies in Red Deer this summer, and none ended the way Sunday's did.
And as they did with each of the other demonstrations, RCMP had analysts monitoring social media as part of the preparation for Sunday.
But, the superintendent said, "We've never seen anything like this. The city has always been very tolerant."
When officers arrived on scene, the situation was already "extremely volatile," Grobemeier told media. “So our officers had to make a decision as to what was more important at the time: the one incident that happened perhaps 10 minutes earlier, or what was going on between two groups at that time.”
Madu said he had "no reason to doubt" the Mounties' account.
“It’s important again that we remind ourselves that we would have to let RCMP follow their process in order to get to the bottom of this.”
'HIGHLY CONCERNING': RED DEER MAYOR
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said it was “highly concerning for our community that travelling protests have incited division and violence in our city.”
“I’ve spoken with the provincial Minister of Justice as well as the RCMP, and both are in solidarity with The City in upholding law and order in our community.”
Grobemeier said it was possible that charges could stem from the investigation, but that police needed several pieces of information first.
"As we all know, there’s always more to it than we see on videos. So we have to do a complete investigation before laying charges,” the Mountie commented.
“We haven’t laid any charges because we need the victim to come forward, we need to obtain witness statements and we also need to know who actually the perpetrator is."