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Fencing unlikely at Barrie amphitheatre to deter lockdown protesters, says mayor

'We continue to work with Barrie police on options, but fencing or barricading Meridian is not seen as an effective solution,' says Lehman
freedom rally max 4 2021-04-17
Hundreds of people were on hand for Saturday's 'freedom rally' at Meridian Place in downtown Barrie.

Meridian Place won’t be fenced in to keep lockdown protesters out of the downtown Barrie space.

Mayor Jeff Lehman said Monday afternoon he doesn’t see barricades working at the outdoor Dunlop Street site. 

“We continue to work with Barrie police on options, but fencing or barricading Meridian is not seen as an effective solution,” he told BarrieToday. “We continue to work on possible alternatives to discourage access for illegal gatherings.”

As part of its update to new provincial stay-at-home orders, the city released the following statement Friday: "All City of Barrie municipal playground equipment, waterfront fitness equipment... skateboard parks, tennis courts, basketball courts and picnic areas/pavilions will be closed to public access. Meridian Place in downtown Barrie will also be closed to the public. Signage will be installed as soon as possible."

Saturday’s ‘freedom rally’ at Meridian Place, which is right below Memorial Square, saw between 400 and 500 people defying provincial stay-at-home orders, as well as health guidelines requesting people to wear masks and practise physical distancing.

Eight people at the event were ticketed for breaching public health restrictions, despite several warnings from police there would be fines and Barrie politicians asking people to stay away as COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise.

The Provincial Offence notices were issued by city police, by authority of the Reopening Ontario Act and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, and range from $750 to $880.

City police said all eight tickets went to event organizers and those attending the rally.

People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier spoke at Saturday’s event.

Barrie police handed out the rally’s first ticket at the April 10 event at Meridian Place. In a video posted to social media, organizer Tyler Nicholson confirmed he received an $880 fine.

The rallies have been taking place since March 15.

— With files by Shawn Gibson

Bob Bruton

About the Author: Bob Bruton

Bob Bruton is a full-time BarrieToday reporter who covers politics and city hall.
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