Winnipeg protester 'embarrassed' he carried Hitler placard

A Winnipeg man has apologized for bringing a placard that showed Mayor Sam Katz made to resemble Adolf Hitler to a protest at City Hall.

Image diverted attention from demonstration's point ahead of budget debate

A Winnipeg man has apologized for bringing a placard that showed Mayor Sam Katz made to resemble Adolf Hitler to a protest at City Hall.

Steve Mack was among dozens of people outside Winnipeg City Hall Wednesday morning demonstrating against public-private partnerships and service cuts ahead of council's debate over the city's operating budget, which passed later that day.

Among the signs seen at the demonstration was one depicting Katz as Hitler and it diverted attention from the protesters' message and prompted outrage from demonstrators and city hall officials.

Mack, 22, told CBC News he brought the sign, saying it had been an attempt to caricature the mayor as a "general" who doesn't care for his people.

"In hindsight, it should have been blindingly obvious to me that it would be interpreted this way, and of course it wasn't my intention, but it's not intention that counts. It's perception," Mack said Wednesday afternoon.

"I feel very embarrassed for my poor judgment. If I could go back and alter my actions, I would."

Mack said he's written a letter of apology to the mayor, who is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors.

"All day I felt so terrible about this," he said. "I just hope that he can understand that I'm sorry, I made a mistake and I'd like to be a man and stand up and take responsibility for this and apologize."

New rules for demonstrations?

The incident has prompted the city councillor who oversees Winnipeg City Hall property to launch a review of how public protests are conducted.

"To do something like that — I mean, it's not only an insult, but it's close to being criminal," said Coun. Harry Lazarenko.

Citizens have the right to gather in the courtyard, carry signs, and sing or chant, Lazarenko said, but he feels the city may have grown too lenient over the years in terms of what it will tolerate in a demonstration.

Pictures like the one carried by Mack could incite violence, he added.

"It gets to be like a mini-riot. It comes to a point where we lose control," he said. "The courtyard is for a peaceful demonstration."

City council rules prohibit the use of placards and signs inside the council chamber. Lazarenko said it might be time to extend similar control to City Hall's courtyard, possibly by banning signs that are defamatory, in poor taste or promote hatred.

Lazarenko says he will meet soon with senior city officials and perhaps the chief of police to discuss new rules for public protests.