One charge laid, more expected to come after anti-lockdown gathering

Independent MPP Randy Hillier (White shirt, centre) embraces a supporter at a No More Lockdowns Canada rally at Tecumseh Park in Chatham. April 26, 2021. (Photo by Matt Weverink)

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent says one charge has been laid and more are expected following a large protest in downtown Chatham on Monday.

About 300 maskless people gathered at Tecumseh Park to protest the provincial COVID-19 lockdowns.

Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire confirmed on Thursday that one person was charged for violating the law but did not have any more information about who was charged or what the specific charge was. Shropshire said it takes time for bylaw enforcement officers to review the video of the crowd taken by a police drone and properly identify the protesters who were unlawful and issue their summons.

“It’s a Charter right for people to have the right to assemble and it’s a Charter right for people to be able to protest. That in itself is not something we had any difficulty with. The challenge was they were asked to do so in a way that was respectful of the guidelines or restrictions that were put in place as a result of COVID,” said Shropshire.

He said there is no reluctance on the municipality’s part to issue tickets because it has laid at least 30 charges already during the past 13 months of the pandemic to people violating COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Shropshire pointed out the municipality has six months to lay a charge, adding officers are taking their time to get the investigation right and make the charges stick.

“If you’re going to go through that process you want to make sure that you have all of your evidence lined up and that you lay the appropriate charges given the circumstances,” he added.

He assures the public the delay in laying charges has nothing to do with political interference or influence and said more information will be forthcoming in a couple of days.

One of the speakers at Monday’s protest in Chatham was Independent MPP Randy Hillier. Hillier tweeted the next day that Chatham was breath of fresh air because there were no police or municipal vehicles attempting to obstruct the Charter right of assembly and commended Mayor Darrin Canniff for doing the right thing by allowing people to gather.