Mayor signs emergency order closing and fencing Meridian Place to stop anti-lockdown ‘freedom’ rallies

“In the interests of public health and safety, I have signed an emergency order closing Meridian Place. The gatherings that put people’s lives at risk need to stop. I want to thank residents of Barrie who have stayed home to keep each other safe at this critical point in the pandemic. The City will continue to pursue additional steps to stop illegal gatherings and hold those responsible accountable.” – Mayor Jeff Lehman


The City is moving to stop the large anti-lockdown ‘freedom’ rallies that have been happening at Meridian Place, immediately closing and fencing off the downtown plaza.
“In the interests of public health and safety, I have signed an emergency order closing Meridian Place,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “The gatherings that put people’s lives at risk need to stop. I want to thank residents of Barrie who have stayed home to keep each other safe at this critical point in the pandemic. The City will continue to pursue additional steps to stop illegal gatherings and hold those responsible accountable.” 
The action was taken in response to the ongoing gatherings that have occurred at Meridian Place, contrary to the provincial stay-at-home order, provincial legislation and regulations, the City’s COVID-19 emergency measures bylaw, and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s public health guidelines.
The City’s top priority continues to be the health and safety of Barrie residents and staff. The City urges all to comply with Ontario’s stay-at-home order, provincial legislation and regulations, the City’s COVID-19 emergency measures bylaw, and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s public health guidelines.
The protests at the downtown square have been a regular fixture every Saturday since March 15, attracting hundreds of people. The province-wide order prohibits all outdoor social gatherings and organized public events, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone, or a caregiver for any member of the household.
What began as protests in support of small businesses impacted by lockdown measures become ‘freedom’ rallies to challenge what organizers and protesters said was an infringement of civil liberties. Many downtown small businesses asked protesters to stay home as the events were keeping customers from coming downtown.
In an open letter, Lehman and council also called for the protests to stop, and the The Barrie Police Service also cautioned protesters against attending the rallies, indicating that fines and court dates could be handed out.
Facbook petition launched by a local resident calling on city council to work with the Barrie Police Service to stop the Meridian Place protest has been signed by more than 1,700 people.

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