Polo Park mall prepares for weekend anti-mask protest
Winnipeg mall has 'taken the steps to ensure the safety and security of the customers and staff,' manager says
A Winnipeg mall is preparing for a group of protesters planning to gather there this weekend without masks in defiance of provincial public health orders.
Protesters are expected to hold the maskless gathering at CF Polo Park at noon on Saturday.
"We are aware of this and have taken the steps to ensure the safety and security of the customers and staff at CF Polo," general manager Peter Havens said in a statement Wednesday.
A Winnipeg police spokesperson said the service is also aware and will be monitoring the event.
An online post for the so-called "mega maskless Manitoba" event encourages people to attend to "create a mega maskless shockwave back to a better normal all while honouring our truckers, heritage and rights."
The post also suggested people "sport any trucker or Canadiana clothing."
Demonstrators have been holding a protest at the Manitoba legislature grounds since Friday against pandemic restrictions and a federal vaccine mandate for truckers.
One store manager at Polo Park said he has mixed feelings about the anti-mask event because he believes everyone has a right to protest peacefully.
What worries him, though, is the possibility of a few "bad eggs" coming in and verbally harassing staff.
"That's kind of where the frustrations come in, because staff are trained just to follow the mandates, and you're taking it out on staff — some who are minors," said Curtis, whom CBC has agreed to identify only by his first name due to fear his store could be targeted.
"They don't have a say in how the store runs and everything, and now they're looking at not even coming in on the weekend, and I don't blame them. They don't want to be here to be yelled at for something out of their control."
The public health orders that came into effect on Tuesday increase allowable indoor and outdoor gathering sizes in private and public settings. Failure to wear a mask inside a public place can result in a fine of $298.
WATCH | Dr. Atwal speaks about upcoming protest:
Deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said everyone, including those who have followed restrictions and limited interactions with loved ones, is frustrated to one degree or another by the collective sacrifices Manitobans have made over the past two years.
"I know we've caused some divides in society as well, but this has to do with everyone's ability … to access life-saving care when it's required, whether you were vaccinated or not, whether you followed the orders or not," he said during a Wednesday COVID-19 news conference.
"The same people that they're protesting against, almost, are caring for them."
Regarding the planned maskless Polo Park protest, he acknowledged the right of people to voice an opinion.
"But you shouldn't harm other people when you do that," he said.
"There are ways to do it both legally and morally, and I would expect or I would ask that these individuals think about that before they go out and perhaps harm someone."
With files from Nathan Liewicki