Tension between two groups came to a head outside the Ponoka RCMP detachment on Monday, Sept. 14, amid ongoing allegations that someone had been hit by a vehicle during a previous set of protests on Sept. 10.
Black and Indigenous Alliance Alberta (BIAA) members attempted to hold a news conference in front of the detachment Monday at noon, but were largely drowned out by two men loudly protesting the conference, believed to be from out of town.
One man, who did not identify himself, used a megaphone and interrupted the treaty lands acknowledgement as BIAA tried to start the conference. He went on to interrupt the conference a number of times, including by playing music.
The man repeated “Antifa go home” several times and made other comments throughout the conference.
“As you can see, these people are clearly not allowing free speech at this moment … as you can see, these are the aggressors, these are our terrorists,” said Kisha Daniels, one of the BIAA founders.
The clashing between the groups initially happened on Sept. 10. A group of protesters of various causes gathered in front of the McDonalds at 2:30 p.m., and BIAA arrived across the road at about 3:30 p.m. for their weekly protest against racism.
It was during this time that a person was allegedly hit by a vehicle
During the press conference, a group gathered on the opposite corner said they were from Ponoka.
According to Ponoka resident Joe Landsman, they came to see what BIAA would say and if they would repeat racial slurs they allegedly said on Sept. 10.
Callum Daniels, one of BIAA’s founders, gave some background information on the group and the weekly protests they have been holding in Ponoka and Wetaskiwin for the past several weeks.
“We are regular Albertans, who have been asked by our fellow Albertans if there was anything we could do to bring attention to racial inequities.”
“There has been a lot of misinformation in regards to the event that happened, Thursday, Sept., 10, 2020 at one of our Black and Indigenous Alliance peaceful protest to bring awareness to racial inequities within the community of Ponoka,” A.J. Fallenchild said, the third founder of BIAA.
Kisha says her group was “goaded, harassed” and called racial slurs during the past six weeks they have been protesting in Ponoka.
According to Kisha, BIAA group saw on social media on Wed., Sept. 9, that “white supremacist hate groups were convoying from Calgary to be aggressors at a peaceful protest.
“These people and their affiliated groups are not shy about their hate and conspiracy theories against racialized folk.”
Kisha says she made a call the to RCMP detachment on Thursday morning, notifying them about the potential threat of the convoy members.
“The overall actions of the Ponoka RCMP involved on the events on Thursday were deplorable, with the exception of Black and Indigenous Alliance interaction with Sgt. St.-Cyr,” she said.
“The RCMP should have done what they are required to do and that is protect and serve. What happened instead, is that the RCMP officers on site told our peaceful protest group that these racist white supremacist groups have the right to approach us … thereby not making the choice to protect bodies of racialized people and our allies.”
Kisha claimed RCMP members “laughed as they drove by the scene of the vehicle assault of one of our members. Very unprofessional action.”
Their other grievance stated was that an officer only spoke to white allies of their group, not the people of colour.
Kisha says their group was “targeted” after an alleged fictitious complaint about them to the RCMP, and claimed RCMP actions created a false narrative for passerby’s, giving the impression that Black and Indigenous people are dangerous.
Staff. Sgt. Chris Smiley took a few questions at the end of the press conference.
Smiley says the RCMP’s role is to preserve the peace on all sides and allow everyone to have their say, and as long as nobody is being assaulted, to give everyone the room to express themselves.
“I’m glad we live in a country where we are allowed to do that,” he said in a phone call after the conference.
“Each side gets to have their say, and our constitution protects them.”
The matter of the alleged vehicle hit and run from last week remains under investigation. Smiley noted that no video footage of the incident has been received from the public at this time.
“We took some criticism today but I’m proud of the men and women in our office and how they handled themselves on Thursday and today.”