Mask protesters claim police are 'on their side,' CPS says it's still investigating

The Calgary Police Service says it isn't finished with its investigation of an anti-mask rally that far exceeded the 10-person limit on outdoor gatherings set out by the Kenney government.

The group that held an anti-mask and anti-lockdown rally in Calgary has vowed to continue protesting and the Calgary Police Service (CPS) says it will continue to monitor the demonstrations.

Walk For Freedom, a grassroots movement that has demonstrated against mask usage and a number of other COVID-19 restrictions throughout the pandemic, held a mass gathering outside Calgary city hall Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of people attended despite the rules against outdoor gatherings larger than 10 people that came into effect on Nov. 27.

Because no tickets were handed out to individuals who attended the protest, organizers claimed it as a victory for their cause, saying in a Facebook post "police are clearly on the side of (their) Charter Rights and Freedoms."

However, the CPS says that while no tickets were handed out at the Saturday rally, that doesn't necessarily mean the actions of individuals at the demonstration will go unpunished.

"Participants in these events are being investigated," police wrote in a statement Sunday.

"Our ticketing is strategic and will take into consideration a number of factors. Although citizens may not witness the summons at the time, that does not necessarily mean we are not exploring those options."

Police also say their "primary objective" is education about the health restrictions and ask all Calgarians to voluntarily comply with the rules set out by the province.

Meanwhile, Walk For Freedom says it is planning another rally next weekend, again at city hall, for the same purpose. The group's Facebook page says it expects to continue the protests for the foreseeable future.

The CPS says it will continue to monitor such events to make sure everyone is safe and the protest remains peaceful.

It adds it will also maintain its role in enforcing the mandatory COVID-19 rules set out by Alberta Health.

"Our Public Health Compliance Team is tasked with responding to complaints under the Public Health Act. Their focus will be mass gatherings, self-isolation and quarantine, and business non-compliance.

"We will attend complaints for indoor social gatherings in any setting, including workplaces and homes. Outdoor social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people. We have also redeployed 12 school resource officers to patrol units to enhance our response to COVID-19 enforcement."

Alberta Justice says all on-the-ground operational decisions in Calgary remain with the CPS and the province will not direct those actions.

"Municipal law enforcement, like the Calgary Police Service, operate independently of the Minister of Justice," said Blaise Boehmer, press secretary for Alberta Justice.

"The provincial government respects the operational enforcement decision-making of Calgary Police Service, while balancing the Charter right to free expression and assembly."