No charges laid after hundreds gather to protest pandemic restrictions in Sarnia

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A lockdown protest held in March. A protestor at a demonstration Sept. 1at Mike Weir Park tested positive for the virus.

Sarnia police say no charges were laid at an anti lockdown rally over the weekend.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of Sarnia City Hall, even though under the province’s reopening framework, Lambton residents are not to gathering at all in public places while under lockdown. There was not a visible police presence in the area.

So far, Sarnia police have given no reason why charges were not laid.

Sarnia Lambton MPP Bob Bailey says told The Independent he respects the people’s right to protest and he understands many small businesses are feeling the pinch.

“I know there were small business people there and I understand their dilemma. I applaud their tenacity, and they’re, you know, trying to stay with it,” Bailey says.

The owner of a Corunna fitiness club which remains open during the lockdown urged others to open up. “It’s possible. We can do it together,” said Rob Theriault, owner of the Corunna Fitness Centre.

Many of the speakers and signs at the Sarnia rally referenced anti-mask sentiments and the “government lies” which have led to the pandemic restrictions. The event was billed as part of a world-wide freedom rally.

Bailey offered this comment about the lack of enforcement of provincial government gathering limits.

“You know, the bylaw officers and the police kind of have their hands tied other than maybe (charging) organizers. You know, how do you what do you do with all those people because there’s no law that says they have to be distanced, (it’s) only out of respect for your family and colleagues.”

Organizers of the event declined to comment to members of the media about the event. One Petrolia organizer, Erin Robinson, invited The Independent to attend and after the event said all the organizers had agreed they would not be speaking to the media.

Social media posts earlier in the week urged people not to give out the names of the organizers of the rally, fearing the police would arrest them before the event.

After the rally at city hall, people walked through downtown Sarnia. One business owner, Lori Mitchell of Silhouettes Boutique, took to social media to say some of the protestors entered her store as she was closing without masks. She told them they had to leave if they refused to wear masks. The protestors continued to move into the store. Mitchell felt threatened and took up a six-foot retrieving hook to use if necessary.

“They called me every name in the book and told me I was ungrateful for people trying to get businesses open again. I picked up the phone and told them I was calling the police. They left, yelling obscenities at me as they did so.”

Sarnia police officials had not hear about the incident.

Meantime, Lambton registered another 40 new cases of COVID-19 Monday. There were 112 positive cases over a three day period. Lambton Public Health also noted another 11 COVID-19 positives have been found to be variants.

The province of Ontario registered 1,699 cases of COVID-19 Monday including three deaths.