Freedom!

A freedom rally is shown in Stuart Park in this file photo. The City of Kelowna is seeking an injunction to end the weekly rallies they allege have been held without permit.

The City of Kelowna says it has exercised patience with those involved in the so-called freedom rally protests that they allege have disrupted normal life in downtown Kelowna for more than two years. But that patience has now run out.

Last week, the City of Kelowna filed a petition for a B.C. Supreme Court injunction that would prevent local activist David Lindsay and his Common Law Education and Rights, a pseudolaw organization, from holding marches and events, selling merchandise or erecting tents at Stuart Park.

The city’s petition alleges that rally organizers have broken numerous park, traffic and outdoor events bylaws along with its Good Neighbour Bylaw. The individual or party named has to be served by a process server and then has 21 days to respond. “That hasn’t happened yet,” said the city’s bylaw services manager Kevin Mead.

City bylaw staff have repeatedly spoken with protest organizers and handed out nearly 200 bylaw offence notices with no change in behaviour and no payment of fines, said Kevin Mead, in an interview Thursday.

Bylaw offence tickets can be appealed to a provincially-appointed adjudicator and so far, 40 per cent have been upheld but fines still not paid, Mead said.

“Really, it has nothing to do with the subject (of freedom rallies), what it is they are talking about, but everything to do with the process of using public space without permit. This is about the fair and equitable use of the space for all members of the public,” explained Mead.

“What the city doesn’t want to be seen to be doing is interfering with people’s charter rights to protest. Which is not what this is about, whatsoever. Anybody has the right to protest,” he added. “There are rules that govern that, nationally as well, for which the city is very supportive of. The matter at hand is monopolizing the use of public space without permit that is interfering with the use by the general public periodically from week to week.”

Despite complaints about honking horns at Kelowna rallies, Mead said that is a Motor Vehicle Act offence and up to RCMP to enforce.

“It’s all similar. People’s right to protest can include making noise and there is always discretion that’s exercised based on the need to maintain public order and safety,” Mead said. “I’m not going to speak for the RCMP but I’m sure that they’ve taken all that into consideration about whether they want to enforce those sides of the matter.”

Mead said the city is particularly concerned about the use of amplified sound and unauthorized vending, and has received a number of complaints from the public.

“For the past two and a half years, the ability of the public to have use of Stuart Park in particular has been impeded due to weekly unpermitted events that have infringed on either other events or at times the use of the skating rink,” he said.

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