Police collecting video, investigating complaints about Premier’s Dinner protest
Police are now investigating after hundreds of protesters swarmed cars outside the Saskatoon Premier’s Dinner event on Thursday.
“The service is aware of the concerns of many people who were attempting to attend an event at Prairieland Park and were confronted by several protestors,” according to a press release issued Friday by the Saskatoon Police Service.
“At this time the SPS is collecting video and requesting complainants and witnesses to come forward to assist in the investigation.”
The police service also sought out tips via Twitter.
“We’re asking people to provide us with info, if they have it, and are looking into the actions of protesters,” the police service tweeted.
Attendees at Thursday’s dinner were met with throngs of sign-waving protesters.
Some of the people upset with Brad Wall’s budget even climbed on top of moving vehicles.
Organizers from the protest say aside from a few isolated incidents, it was a peaceful demonstration of people’s frustrations with the cuts in the provincial budget.
But an expert from the University of Saskatchewan says protest organizers need to be mindful of private property and the law if they want to persuade public opinion.
“You have to find a balance, in a way, in terms of showing your anger and at the same time, doing it in a way that will not alienate the public who might be sympathetic to your cause and might dislike the budget,” said Daniel Beland, a political sociologist.
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Beland says given the anger over the budget, he expects to see similar heated protests in the coming weeks and months.
Organizers of Thursday’s event say tensions over the budget are high and a few incidents of people jumping on cars don’t reflect on everyone at the demonstration.
“In a crowd that size with emotions running high like they are, it’s somewhat of inevitability. I think overall the protest was quite well conducted. We head that from police, we heard that from a lot of people,” said Peter Garden, one of the organizers.
‘Unfortunate’ how protest played out: minister
Politicians from across the province’s political spectrum reacted to the scene on Friday.
“There’s a way to get our message across without resorting to violence,” said Warren McCall, NDP MLA for Regina Elphinstone-Centre.
“Peaceful protest is something we are so fortunate to have as part of the way the democratic process goes here in Canada and Saskatchewan. We need not look very far around the world to see how that can go badly.”
Asked if he will speak to supporters of the Saskatchewan NDP about the inappropriateness of violent protests before Wall’s June 1 Premier’s Dinner in Regina, McCall said, “I think different members of the caucus have made that message plain.”
Minister of Energy and Resources Dustin Duncan also expressed his disappointment with aspects of Thursday night’s protest.
“People can disagree and I think that that’s understandable. It’s unfortunate how some of that has played out, though.”
Premier Wall spoke to reporters shortly after his speech later Thursday night.
While he said he did not have a message for the protesters, he went on to defend their right to express themselves.
“I knew before the budget was introduced that this was not going to be a popular budget and we made these difficult decisions because we strongly believe they’re in the best interests of the province and the long-term interests of Saskatchewan,” Wall said Thursday night.
Beland, meanwhile, believes the protests aren’t going anywhere.
He said the government’s decision to reverse the millions of dollars in library cuts this week has emboldened the protesters.
He said there would be a myriad of reasons for that reversal and it would be wrong to draw a line between street protests and the government’s decision, he said politicians remember protests like the one Saskatoon saw Thursday.
“I think the anger of a number of segments of the population is real. The anger about the budget. I don’t think it’s going a blip,” Beland said.
The protest involved a wide coalition of people upset about the March 22 budget. Groups upset with dismantling of Saskatchewan Transportation Company, hearing aid programs, Idle No More Saskatoon, Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik, SaskForward were all represented.
Garden says he is interested to see if similar protests are organized in Regina for the Premier’s Dinner next month.