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‘This is our home’

All the protests going through downtown during the pandemic
have residents pleading for peace and quiet

Marchers parade down 104th street during the Black Lives Matter protest in 2020. (Brett Holden)

By Brett Holden

SINCE THE start of the pandemic, there have been numerous protesters marching around downtown for several causes. Many of the protests have caused temporary street closures, standoffs between protestors and counter-protestors, and numerous noise complaints – all for the sake of some sort of change.

How do these demonstrations affect the people who live where they happen?

For Nick Diaz, the situation amounts to a risk of “hearing damage inside of my own home.”

 “I confirmed the volume levels with a decibel meter,” he wrote to City Council. “These volume levels sustain for six or seven hours. It is absolutely unlivable. I wasn’t able to take a sidewalk measurement, because when I went out there in my mask, I was yelled at by several groups of people.”

Evan Hoogewoonink, who lives downtown, says the worst has been the most recent.

“To be honest, for the truck convoy, that was probably the worst one because of all the noise that was happening from about 12, to 7 or 8 at night. BLM and other protests like that, because they were a little more controlled, they weren’t that loud.”

On Feb. 11, the city was granted a legal injunction on excessive noise to help combat the many complaints from downtown residents.

“When you have something go through like that with such legislation, you would think that would be the end of it,” Hoogewoonink says.

But a week after the city put the injunction in place, Edmonton Police announced they handed out 71 tickets for noise violations. A week later, they reported 33 more noise violation tickets.

But residents like Hoogewoonink think the city missed the mark. “It got to the point where we had to put music on, so we didn’t feel like we were in asylum. It was a little disheartening that the city couldn’t follow through.”

It hasn’t been just the recent protests that have caused a stir for downtown residents.

‘It feels like I am getting accosted when all I want
to do is bring in my groceries’

Brenden Escott, who lives near the Alberta Legislature, says the parking lots would be flooded with protestors, making it nearly impossible to leave his apartment.

“When the protests started, it became you couldn’t invite people over because it was something you started to plan your day around. This is my home. I understand that this is a public place, and I am downtown, but it feels like I am getting accosted when all I want to do is bring in my groceries.”

Since the start of 2020, downtown has seen demonstrations for several causes, including the Wet’suwet’en pipelineBlack Lives Matteranti-mask mandatesgender equality, and many others. The importance of protesting is not lost on the residents; however, some say there are more effective ways to get the point across.

“It’s not as though I think it is a great inconvenience to sacrifice a couple of hours one weekend,” Escott says. “People have right to expression; people don’t have a right to take control.

“Regardless of your standpoint, there’s got to be a level of respect for others around you.”

In a report from the Canadian Press, criminal anthropologist and former Calgary police officer Cathy Prowse credits Alberta with the most pronounced unrest in the country. Prowse also says those who have been socially isolated during the pandemic and have connected with people through protest participation have the potential to be the most dangerous.

“There’s always a potential for spillover into more extremist groups,” she wrote in the report.

“My girlfriend got heckled as she walked past a trucker because she was wearing her mask – and that she was conforming to some sort of government,” Hoogewoonink says. “It didn’t need to be said.”

For now, those who live downtown are ready for the next protest but wish more could be done to support them.

“Unfortunately, I feel, as a resident, there’s not much I can do,” Hoogewoonink says. “It’s sad to see.”

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