An MLA in northern Alberta says a group of people protesting COVID-19 restrictions crossed a border as they gathered outside her private residence, leaving a loop marked with a violent threat.
Tracy Allard says a protest began Sunday afternoon outside her home in Grande Prairie and soon grew to about 30 people. She said the RCMP was called and that the crowd dispersed about 90 minutes after police arrived.
Left behind, a loop was attached to a small wooden gallows painted with the words “no to masks, end the government, hang them all,” Allard said in a statement posted to Facebook Monday.
A photo posted by Allard shows the tree structure lying on her lawn.
Finding the loop was “cooling,” said Allard, who has served as the UCP MLA in Grande Prairie riding since 2019.
“This is a shocking act of aggression, a clear threat and a sad punctuation mark on the polarization and anger of our society,” Allard wrote in the statement.
“Beyond my outrage and my shock, I feel a deep sorrow. I feel heartache … because what I see behind this action is a growing fear that grips our society.”
Allard said those gathered Sunday respected her home, her privacy and her neighbors.
“You too, the people in my neighborhood … the preschoolers who live in my dead end?” she wrote.
‘My heart just sank’
While speaking to reporters at the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday about the incident, Allard broke down in tears.
Allard said she was not home when the demonstration began, but saw the incident unfold through her home’s security cameras.
“My heart just sank,” Allard said and her voice shattered. “2021 has been a very difficult year for my family.
“As a woman in politics, I think it’s been really challenging to see how cruel people can be.
“I’m emotional because I’m thinking of my daughter who’s been through significant setbacks as the daughter of a politician, and that should not be the case.”
Allard said she is concerned that the incident will deter the next generation of Albertans, especially young women, from getting involved in politics.
“I’m worried about the younger people who see this, the younger people who see good people in politics being reviled for all the wrong reasons.”
Allard said she does not know who organized the demonstration. She said she is working with the Legislative Assembly’s sergeant-at-arms to investigate further.
She said politics has become too polarized and that the stress of the pandemic has made people angry and intolerant.
“I hope I lead by example and show kindness to an act of aggression.”
The Grande Prairie RCMP said they were called to the scene around 2.45pm on Sunday.
Officers responded and found a “large group” of protesters gathered in a residential area, Const. Lindsay Ralph told CBC News.
Ralph said officers noticed protesters had tied a loop to a fence near the property and asked that it be taken down. The loop was removed as desired, Ralph said.
The protesters protested peacefully, were respectful and “did not create any problems” with the traffic, Ralph said.
No arrests were made and no further complaints were lodged regarding the demonstration, Ralph said. Police were not aware the loop had been left behind, she said.
Attorney General and Attorney General Kaycee Madu dismissed the protest, saying he was “appalled” to hear that Allard was being intimidated.
“Government officials and their families deserve to feel safe, especially in their homes,” Madu wrote in a statement on social media. “Intimidation and threats of violence are never acceptable and damage dialogue in our democracy.”
Anger driven by fear, Allard says
In his Facebook post, Allard said the protesters and the loop symbolize the deep division and fear created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The uncertainty of the past 20 months, including “confusing and seemingly conflicting restrictions” imposed by governments around the world, has left citizens confused and insecure, she said.
Allard said the incident has inspired her to consult more with her constituents to ensure she listens without judging. She urged other Albertans and government decision-makers to do the same.
“I think that’s the key: listening to understand instead of listening to being right,” Allard wrote.
Allard said she has always fought for freedom and for elections with Alberta’s COVID-19 restrictions. She said she remains committed to representing her constituents.
“The irony for me is that I am an MLA who is committed to working hard to be a voice for EVERYONE,” Allard wrote. “I regularly ask questions and fight for better politics … I understand, for example, that the group of unvaccinated people across Alberta is not a homogeneous group of ‘anti-waxers’.”
Allard said all voters concerned about the government’s response to the pandemic are encouraged to contact her office, but she asked that her family be left in peace.