London

Police services crack down on "Freedom Rally" organizers

Following charges to London's "Lawful Freedom Rally" organizers on Wednesday, two other police services in the region have announced charges related to their own rallies. 

Organizers of St. Thomas and Aylmer rallies have been charged

Two people were charged after a rally in St. Thomas on Nov. 14 and one person was charged in relation to this rally in Aylmer on Nov. 7. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

Two more police services in the region are announcing charges related to anti-mask rallies, following organizers of London's "Lawful Freedom Rally" being charged on Wednesday.

St. Thomas police said two people face charges in connection to a Nov. 14 rally where about 200 people gathered to protest COVID-19 safety protocols. On Thursday afternoon, Aylmer police said a 43-year-old woman has been charged after organizing two "freedom" rallies, including one on Oct. 24 and another on Nov. 7 that drew 2,000 people to the small town.

In a news release, St. Thomas police didn't specify the exact charges but said more information will be released in the coming days. They described the people who will face charges as rally organizers.

People at these rallies marched and gave speeches, many arguing that masking and other measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus infringe on personal freedoms. 

The St. Thomas rally drew counter-protesters who held signs expressing concern that the gathering could lead to the spread COVID-19, a virus that has infected more than 350,000 Canadians and killed more than 11,000.  

Public health officials called the Aylmer rally dangerous, saying the combination of a large crowd of people, many not wearing masks, could fuel the spread of the virus. In the days leading up to the protest, the mayor of Aylmer declared a state of emergency. 

In a news release, police said the woman linked to the Aylmer rally is charged with four counts of failing to comply with regulations under the Reopening Ontario Act, including two counts of hosting a public gathering that exceeds the number of people permitted. 

Police did not name the woman. She's expected to appear in provincial court on Jan.14. 

If convicted, fines for breaking provincial orders start at $10,000. 

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