Protesters swarm cars outside dinner event hosted by Sask. Premier Brad Wall

Hundreds of people from more than a dozen organizations rallied and swarmed around cars outside the Saskatoon venue where Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall gave a keynote address at his Premier's Dinner event Thursday.

Premier Brad Wall defends protesters' right to express 'dissent'

Drivers on Ruth Street found their pathways blocked by budget protesters Thursday evening. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC News)

Hundreds of people from more than a dozen organizations rallied outside the Premier's Dinner venue in Saskatoon Thursday night, where Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall gave a keynote address. 

Protesters outside the event showed their opposition to cuts outlined in the 2017-2018 provincial budget. They began converging on Ruth Street, around Prairieland Park, before 5 p.m. CST.

The Premier's Dinner — an event hosted by the ruling Saskatchewan Party — was taking place at the park's Hall A.

Drivers on nearby Ruth Street found their cars blanketed by sign-waving protesters and organizers speaking through megaphones.

Some protesters even climbed atop some of the cars, causing tensions to rise.

NOTE: The following video has been altered to remove to offensive language. 

Things got testy during a protest of the contentious Saskatchewan budget on Thursday night in Saskatoon. 1:06

One shouted at a driver, "Are you a liar like Brad Wall?"

STC cut slammed 

"We think the cuts are unfair and they were done without consultation and we're not willing to accept them," said Cindy Hanson, a spokesperson for Stop the Cuts, the coalition representing the 12 organizations behind the rally.

Hanson cited the government's decision to wind down the Saskatchewan Transportation Company as a particularly hard-hitting cut. 

"Saskatchewan has one of the highest rural populations in Canada. The cuts to STC will hit rural populations," she said.

To point out what they saw as a contrast between themselves and those attending tonight's dinner — where plates fetch a price of $250 — protesters feasted on hot dogs.

People began converging on Ruth Street before 5 p.m. CST, with crowds eventually surrounding cars. (Marc-Antoine Belanger/CBC Radio Canada)

"Saskatchewan is one of the only provinces that has anything like cash for access," said Hanson. "We feel that's unfair when he's putting cuts on the people of Saskatchewan."

Cash-for-access events are when the public must pay to attend. Similar fundraising events held by the federal Liberals have been the source of recent ethical concern

Premier: 'We know people are upset' 

Wall spoke to reporters shortly after his speech later Thursday night.

While he said he did not have a message for the protestors, he went on to defend their right to express themselves.

"We live in a kind of a society where people I think are not just free but encouraged to express what they believe," said Wall. "We know people are upset and obviously they're going to express that dissent as they did today and they should be welcomed and encouraged to do so.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall speaks at his Premier's Dinner event in Saskatoon Thursday night. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC News )

"I knew before the budget was introduced that this was not going to be a popular budget and we made these difficult decisions because we strongly believe they're in the best interests of the province and the long-term interests of Saskatchewan."

Wall's wife, Tami, had to make her way through the protesters. 

"She's been in politics for a long time," said Wall. "It's part of politics, and it should be."

Some of the other groups involved with the protest included local community groups, Idle No More Saskatoon, Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik, SaskForward, Save STC and various unions.

with files from Marc-Antoine Belanger and Chanss Lagaden


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