Approximately 60 people gathered in downtown Smithers March 20 to protest COVID-19 restrictions. (Deb Meissner photo)

Approximately 60 people gathered in downtown Smithers March 20 to protest COVID-19 restrictions. (Deb Meissner photo)

Tickets to be issued to rally organizers: RCMP

Approximately 60 people turned out March 20 in downtown Smithers to protest COVID-19 restrictions

RCMP will be issuing up to five tickets under the Public Health Act to leaders identified at a demonstration in downtown Smithers March 20 against COVID restrictions, Staff Sgt. Terry Gillespie confirmed. Tickets range from $2,300 for organizers to $230 for participants.

Approximately 60 people attended the rally Saturday, and, as in the past, speakers kicked off the event, then headed down Main Street and back to line the highway waving placards at passing motorists.

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Gladys Atrill, mayor of Smithers, came to observe what was going on, although she remained away from the group.

Art gallery staff were also monitoring from a distance and had taken down signs that were placed at the front of the building.

The gallery delayed opening until the rally was over as the demonstrators occupied the square in front of the building after their Main Street walk, making it difficult to gain entrance to the building.

Nicole Chernish, gallery manager, said after a rally in December they do not open until after these events, as it is difficult and sometimes intimidating for people to come through the crowd.

“We are not saying anything about the right to assemble, we would just appreciate rally members and organizers using Goat park to assemble and park, and perhaps using the other three corners of Main Street and Highway 16 to stand along,” she said. “Having people out in front of the building and in the parking lot becomes a problem for not just the art gallery, but everyone using this building.”

Chernish said it was after 1 p.m. before they were able to open on Saturday, with normal opening at 11 a.m.

March 20 was hailed as a World Wide Rally for Freedom Day. There were events planned in major cities from Calgary and Vancouver to London, Paris and Rome.

READ MORE: Anti-maskers hold rallies against COVID-19 restrictions across B.C.