Special Edition: Solidarity on the Red Mile
Photos and videos from the Beltline on March 12, 2022
CORRECTION: Added clarification below around the badges worn by the police public safety unit.
For three weekends in a row, a small group of Beltline residents and supporters have been disrupting the weekly anti-vaxx rallies in their community. These rallies and the subsequent marches down 17th Ave. SW have been holding the community hostage for several hours every weekend for months.
The marches begin with speeches, a merchandise tent and random honking throughout the neighbourhood. The gathering spot is in Central Memorial Park directly across the street from the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre. From there, protesters — with a police escort — stop traffic along 4th Ave., turning onto 17th Ave. and marching almost the full length of the famous “Red Mile” shutting it down for several hours, depending on the size of the crowd.
None of this has any of the required permits or licenses (for the merchandise tent). At a Calgary Police Commission meeting in February, CPS Deputy Chief Chad Tawfik said weekly anti-vaccination and anti-mask protests had run up $2 million in policing costs in 2021.
Two weekends ago, the Beltline residents and supporters stepped onto 17th Ave. SW around 7th Street and blocked the marchers from continuing. With little pushback, the protesters turned right and altered their route a few blocks early.
This past weekend, things did not go as well. When the community counterprotesters arrived at the intersection of 17th Ave. SW and 5A Street as planned, the police had formed a line with their bikes to hold them back.
Not long after that, this guy came up behind the group of about 90-100 protesters and started shooting video and shouting angrily with two small children in tow.
Then police officers on the line facing us were observed to be wearing what looked like Molon Labe pins on their uniforms, a symbol often used by guns rights advocates in the United States and coincidentally, also found on the flags of the so-called “freedom” Calgary protesters. As it turns out, this badge is actually the logo for the Calgary Police public safety unit. A closer look at the Latin phrasing provided to me by Community Solidarity YYC shows the Latin words under the Spartan face shield (often associated with Molon Labe) are actually “Tenete Lineam” or “Hold the line.” This is not exactly the same as Molon Labe phraseology but the use of the Spartan face shield seems like a poor choice of symbolism.
Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Bateman (retired) wrote a wonderful takedown of the modern Molon Labe symbolism in Esquire in 2014:
Molon Labe is supposed to be the response given to the Persian king Xerxes by the Spartan king Leonidas when Xerxes demanded that the Greek force (which actually numbered between 5,000 and 7,000, of whom only 300 were Spartans) lay down their weapons. It is generally translated as, "Come and get them." And here is where the irony raises its head. See, in choosing this quote and this situation, the "freedom lovers" are quoting the absolute ruler of the most rigidly controlled military state in the ancient world. Leonidas was the co-king of Sparta, a state in which the individual had almost no rights, which held a massive population (the "Helots") in subjugation and slavery, and where all able-bodied men were completely subject to the will of the leaders. In other words, the exact opposite of freedom.
While the Beltline residents waited behind the police line at 5A Street, the main marchers (1,000+) had walked through (been let through?) a police line at 5th Street and began walking towards the smaller, masked group. At the front of the march, someone carried a sign targeting Premier Jason Kenney with the following message, “It’s time you got fitted for a new tie, Kenney.”
The protesters then marched forward within a short distance of the counterprotesters, who were being held back by a small number of police. On the south side of 17th Ave., quite a few protesters simply walked around the police (including the police on mounted horses) and took up positions behind the counterprotesters, taunting and jeering at them.
You’ll note the protesters were left standing by without any police holding them back after refusing to go around or take a detour down the side street.
Around this time, police began to push the protesters backwards, forcing them into closer contact with the marchers who had by then, encircled them.
Watch this video from another angle as police aggressively hit and pushed the Beltline residents back towards the protesters who were shouting at them, effectively boxing them in. You’ll hear one person yell, “that’s what it’s like to be on the losing side” and “traitors to your country.”
As you can see here, the protesters climbed up on the wall and continued to press forward, trying to go through the line of Beltline supporters. Some passersby and local business owners joined the residents in holding back the marchers.
There were some tense moments between the two groups for about 30-40 minutes as police failed to intervene at all in the standoff behind the Beltline residents and supporters.
Soon after this, the protesters on the north side of 17th Ave. broke or were let through. Police blocked the Beltline residents from moving anywhere by surrounding them on almost all sides as the following signs paraded by (I was trapped inside the police circle myself - they would not let me out).
Weary Beltline residents and supporterss, having been boxed in, hit with police bicycles, yelled at and harangued for more than hour, stood firm on NOT letting the last few cars in the convoy pass.
For more photos and videos, see my Twitter account for the full story.
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