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‘Mob rule’ won’t affect B.C.’s COVID-19 restrictions, minister warns

Police monitoring what could be Victoria’s biggest protest yet
Demonstrators show their support for the “freedom convoy” in Sooke in February. Anti-vaccine mandate protests have clogged highways on Southern Vancouver Island for several weekends, and Victoria Police are preparing for a larger demonstration expected at the B.C. legislature on Monday, March 14. (Justin Samanski-Langille/Sooke News Mirror)

As the latest and largest “freedom convoy” heads across Western Canada to converge on Victoria by Monday, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says police are prepared to keep anti-vaccine mandate protests under control.

The capital has seen a series of horn-honking vehicle convoys circling the B.C. legislature on recent weekends, inspired by the recent occupation of downtown Ottawa, and a self-described organizer of the latest one has targeted Victoria for what he says is intended to “occupy” the downtown area for weeks or months.

“Legal protest is allowed in this country. It is part of a free and democratic society. Occupations are not,” Farnworth told reporters at the legislature March 9. “Victoria Police as well as my ministry have been monitoring the situation, and as we’ve seen with previous protests, the police have been responding when they’re required to, and ensuring that protests remain peaceful.”

Police have ticketed vehicles for blasting their horns, enforcing a new city bylaw against excessive noise. Most weekdays, a small group of protesters calling for the end of mandates has waved flags and protest signs but has not blocked traffic.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has an announcement scheduled for today that is expected to include end dates for mandatory masks and proof of vaccination for restaurants and other public spaces. B.C. is the last province to announce relief from the measures, as hospitalized COVID-19 patients have declined in numbers.

“What we’ve made clear all along in this province is that we make our decisions around mask mandates, vaccine mandates, on the basis of health and science and the best advice from the provincial health officer,” Farnworth said. “That’s what we’re going to continue to do. We do not make our decisions based on threats or mob rule.”

RELATED: ‘Freedom convoy’ organizer vows months of protest in Victoria

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