A second "freedom rally" organized by disputers of mask mandates, pandemic-linked science and associated public messaging from government is under law enforcement's microscope because of alleged breaches of provincially-imposed gathering limits and physical distancing rules.
The Bridgewater Police Service (BPS) was made aware of a group photograph after the April 24 demonstration, which took place at Shipyards Landing, off King Street, showing too many people who were too close together.
Authorities are now investigating the matter as a potential violation of the Health Protection Act. Whether any tickets will be issued as a result depends on factors, such as being able to identify people in at least one image, which circulated on social media, BPS deputy chief Danny MacPhee told LighthouseNOW. "That will depend on what we can review off that original photo," MacPhee said during a phone interview.
BPS issued a statement two days after the rally in support of Nova Scotians following public health recommendations and also to confirm it was not in support of, nor offered encouragement for, the mask-less event. This was in response to a contrasting message posted on social media by a rally supporter.
Although he did not see images of the event, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin called participants insensitive, while crediting the larger numbers of people who are listening to and following public health protocols.
"It's selfish, frankly, if they don't care about their own selves - which they should - they should at least care about those that are close to them and their community," Rankin responded to LighthouseNOW's questions during a provincial briefing April 26.
"They should read some peer-reviewed studies once in a while." He said such events are "not helpful because it does, I think, contribute to vaccine hesitancy."
Data supplied to the province indicates most Nova Scotians want to get vaccinated, the premier said.
Rather than focusing on a resistant segment of the population, both Rankin and chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, are choosing to zero-in on the efforts of those who are cooperating and understand the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MacPhee was doing the same. "The vast majority of the province and the community are abiding by the rules," he said.
Law enforcement recognizes the challenges with enforcing the rules. "The biggest struggle we have," MacPhee noted, "is the difference between the recommendations and regulations."
The April 24 rally was the second such event in Bridgewater in recent weeks. A mask-less march on Bridgewater's west side and subsequent demonstration at the same town-owned park was held March 27.
Organizers were raising concerns about public health restriction impacts on businesses, individuals and places of worship. They also wanted to call attention to pressures and stress government-imposed thresholds and limits have had on children and seniors.