Calgary Mayor threatens protesters with fine after drag event is canceled
Calgary mayor says ‘hateful’ demonstrations can’t continue after a planned drag event was postponed over safety concerns due to a planned protest – adding the city will apply a bylaw to stop people delivering hateful messages , to be punished with a fine.
Chinook Blast chief executive Franca Gualtieri said the organization was aware of protests planned for the Drag on Ice festival with DJ Gaysnakes on Saturday and Sunday at Olympic Plaza.
“We have made the decision to postpone programming to a later date when we can better ensure everyone’s safety,” Gualtieri wrote in an emailed statement.
Gualtieri said the decision was made after discussions with the cast.
Recently, drag story times and drag events for all ages in Calgary and across the country have been targeted by opponents – the most vocal of whom are mostly members of alt-right groups.
Counter-protesters have turned up at many of these events to show their support for drag performers.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the city will issue tickets to people to address specific types of protests.
On Friday, she said the City of Calgary will use its existing street harassment statute to punish those who openly communicate hateful messages in a public place.
“As a result of the actions of a very small group of people who wanted to stage a hateful and hate-motivated protest, we had to cancel a fairly significant event in our city that many Calgarians had been looking forward to. It’s not a win,” she said.
She said the $500 fine applies to comments, behavior or actions related to a person’s race, color, ancestry, place of origin, religious beliefs, disability, age, marital status, source of income, marital status, sex, gender identity, sex expression or sexual orientation.
The fines can be imposed by police officers and officials, Gondek said.
“Things have gone horribly wrong and they have turned horribly sideways. These are not peaceful gatherings. These are designed to do something very, very different,” said Gondek.
Drag performer Karla Marx, a co-producer of Drag on Ice, said queer venues and events in the city have come under protest in recent months.
“We were able to do these events because they are indoors because we can close the door. Protesters and counter-demonstrators can voice their concerns outside and we can host the event,” Marx said.
“However, there is no door to close at Canada Olympic Plaza and we have been informed that there is no way to separate protesters from the crowd.”
Marx said the planned performers will continue to be paid and the event will take place at a later date.
“The event will continue. They will never stop us from celebrating who we are. We just had to do it in a way that made it safer for both the performers and the audience,” Marx said.
Calgary Downtown Association executive director Mark Garner said the planned protest and resulting postponement was disappointing.
“That just can’t be possible for Calgary today. It’s sad,” Garner said.
He also highlighted the economic loss and urged Calgarians to head downtown this weekend and support local restaurants and businesses.
Chinook Blast executive Gualtieri said the cancellation came after discussions with his partners, cast members, the city government and the Calgary Police Service.
Other scheduled Chinook Blast events will continue this weekend.