Car rally in support of protesting Indian farmers shut down at last minute by RCMP
Published Saturday, January 16, 2021 5:15PM PST Last Updated Saturday, January 16, 2021 7:28PM PST
SURREY, B.C. -- Protesters were left frustrated on Saturday after a rally they had planned weeks in advance was shut down at the last minute by police officers.
“It’s very frustrating to see the RCMP denied the people’s right to protest today,” said attendee Harjat Grewal.
The drive-in rally was to take place at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Saturday afternoon.
Hundreds also drove into the parking lot at the same location last month in a similar display before convoying to downtown Vancouver.
This time, police officers arrived well before the protest was scheduled to start and told everyone that arrived to turn around.
The rally was organized in support of farmers in India, who for weeks have been protesting agricultural laws they say will threaten their livelihood in that country.
It’s not entirely clear when police made the decision to shut down the rally.
In an email to CTV News Vancouver on Friday night, a spokesperson with Surrey RCMP said, “regarding the planned event in Cloverdale, we're aware of it and Surrey RCMP, along with City of Surrey bylaw (officers), will be attending to conduct enforcement of COVID-19 public health orders and city bylaws.”
Frustrated attendees said they were surprised by the move from officers to shut down the rally.
Volunteer Ravinder Grewal was issued a traffic ticket while giving directions to another man as attendees scrambled to find a new location for an impromptu protest.
“I got a wonderful souvenir for today,” she said, holding up her violation ticket for “disobeying a traffic control device.”
“I could care less of the cost,” Grewal said. “It is important to voice your opinion.”
Volunteer Pindie Dhaliwal said the rally was well-organized, with COVID-19 protocols in place.
“I think it is quite clear what happened today: the RCMP shut us down and suppressed our voices,” she said. “The anti-mask protest did take place at Vancouver Art Gallery without COVID measures. We had COVID measures in place.”
A smaller number of protesters still gathered near the Strawberry Hill Shopping Centre later Saturday afternoon.
Surrey RCMP did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.