Calgary police have charged a 66-year-old man with uttering threats and wearing a disguise with intent after he allegedly disrupted a Calgary candidates debate while wearing a Confederate flag over his face in an apparent protest of the niqab.
Wayne Joseph Fillo was arrested Thursday night following the bizarre incident at an election forum in the riding of Calgary Rocky Ridge.
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Calgary police spokesman Kevin Brookwell said a man showed up at the forum wearing "a handkerchief over his face that was the Confederate flag" and immediately caused a stir.
"When challenged as to why he was dressed like that, he indicated that he wanted to make a point," Brookwell said.
Things then got "heated" and the man was escorted out of the building and the doors locked behind him.
Officers responding to a call for assistance found the man in a vehicle parked nearby, where he was taken into custody.
Police allege he threatened the custodian of the Tuscany Club, where the debate was taking place.
Hate crime consideration
"Given the nature of these allegations, our hate crime co-ordinator will be having a look at this file," Brookwell said.
Jeff Clemens was attending the debate with his wife when their baby got fussy and she left. When he went to find her, he said he saw a man wearing a hat and a Confederate flag over his face who was "being hostile" toward the women at the front door.
"I didn't want to be that guy that just stands there, so I got in between and asked, 'Why are you doing this?'" Clemens said.
He said the man replied: "I'm against the niqab."
Someone with the venue then showed up and took over, Clemens said.
Liberal candidate Nirmala Naidoo, who is running against Conservative Pat Kelly, Green Party candidate Catriona Wright and Stephanie Kot of the NDP in the Calgary Rocky Ridge riding, said she was disappointed and alarmed by the incident.
She said the man has a right to wear the flag and voice his concerns, but it's the alleged threats that worry her, as well as the tone of the political discourse at this point in the election campaign.
"We need to stop these polarizing issues," Naidoo said. "It's whipping people up into a frenzy. It's making people think they have to choose a side."
Brookwell said the man was not previously known to police and there was no violence at any point during the incident.