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Surrey protest supporting farmers in India blocked by police

A protest planned to take place yesterday in Cloverdale was shut down by the Surrey RCMP according to organizers of the event.
Surrey RCMP blocked a protest supporting farmers in India on Saturday, Jan. 16.

A protest planned to take place yesterday in Cloverdale was shut down by the Surrey RCMP according to organizers of the event.

"The Surrey RCMP blocked the protest from happening, despite provincial health orders allowing drive-in events," write organizers on their website. "One person was even unfairly issued a $2,300 ticket for hosting a 'non-compliant event' simply for attending the protest and speaking with the RCMP."

However, organizers say the event would have been in compliance with the provincial health orders in regards to the pandemic. The rally they were planning would have been a drive-in protest, which is allowed, and organizers argue they would have been within the conditions outlined.

"Today’s protest was organized with a COVID-safety plan that would meet all the conditions of the Provincial Health Order, including limiting the total number of vehicles, people remaining in vehicles, compliance with the physical distancing requirement if outside their vehicle, mandatory mask-wearing, and gathering of contact information. Audio was to be delivered by radio broadcast," they write.

The protest never got started, organizers write, with police ending things before they began. Beforehand the Surrey RCMP tweeted about knowing of the plan, but did not give any indication it was in violation of anything or would be shutdown.

"Even when explicitly asked by organizers, the Surrey RCMP did NOT state that the event was in violation of or non-compliant with any provincial health order," write the organizers.

Participants feel the police action was unfair.

"One of the only options we have, as Canadians watching the Farmers’ Protests from far away, is to exercise our democratic right to peacefully protest without the heavy-handed interference of the RCMP," says volunteer Pindie Dhaliwal in a press release.

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has become involved in the issue now, as well.

"The shutting down of this protest organized by a racialized community is an affront to the constitutional right to protest. Freedom of expression and freedom of association are fundamental democratic rights that must be respected," says BCCLA lawyer and policy director Meghan McDermott.

Vancouver is Awesome has reached out to the Surrey RCMP for comment and will update this story when we hear back.