An event in Alberta, Canada, on Saturday and Sunday billed as the “No More Lockdowns Rodeo Rally” drew thousands of attendees – plus stern criticism from provincial officials, who declared the rodeo “a clear breach of current public health restrictions” and said participants “knowingly put their fellow Albertans at risk.”
Both of those condemnations were rendered by Alberta Health Services (AHS), which issued a statement Sunday that said its inspectors notified rodeo organizers in advance they were violating coronavirus protocols. AHS said it was “disappointing” that the rally nevertheless proceeded and drew a huge crowd, despite a limit of ten people maximum at outdoor gatherings.
The rodeo was originally to be held at the rodeo grounds in the town of Bowden, about an hour north of Calgary, but was moved to a lot along the highway outside of town after the Bowden Agricultural Society revoked the organizers’ permit. Two cowboy associations withdrew their support for the rodeo last week.
According to CTV News, “Hundreds of cars filtered in and out of the property for most of the afternoon, and inside, busy bleachers hosted tightly-packed fans.” CTV reporters only saw one participant wearing a mask.
CTV described the rodeo as “almost as much a political rally as a sporting event,” noting that guest speakers “well-known for their opposition to Covid-19 health restrictions” were scheduled to appear.
Organizer Northcott Rodeo Inc. declared on Facebook that it refused to “stand by idly and watch as not only our businesses but also our Western heritage and more importantly, our basic human rights are ripped out of existence by the tyrannical beings of our current world.”
“Yesterday, we broke records, we had fast times in the barrel racing, retired bull riders pulling the gears out for another eight-second adrenaline ride. But with the help of all of you, we were also the first rodeo in over a year where normality wasn’t even questioned,” Northcott wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday morning, as the second day of the event got underway.
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) sergeant told the Globe and Mail on Sunday that police monitored both days of the event but were “unaware of any tickets for violations.” AHS nevertheless stated it is considering some form of legal action against the organizers.
The Globe and Mail reported Sunday that Alberta has the “highest rate of active Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] cases” in Canada, having recorded “three consecutive days with more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases each, including a record 2,433 on Friday.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney condemned the rodeo on Twitter, saying it was “disturbing to see large numbers of people gathering this weekend at Bowden in flagrant violation of Covid-19 public health measures.”
“On a personal note, I’m angered and saddened to see so many people selfishly put themselves ahead of others,” Kenney wrote, calling the rodeo a “slap in the face to everybody who is observing the rules to keep themselves and their fellow Albertans safe.”
“Rodeo celebrates Alberta’s Western heritage, a key part of which is our community spirit and looking out for others, especially the vulnerable. That’s the opposite of what these folks are doing,” he argued.
CTV News quoted rodeo attendee Glen Carritt, an “activist and mayoral candidate,” saying politicians do not understand how weary their citizens have grown of perpetual coronavirus restrictions.
“We’ve tried it the other way for well over a year, we complied with the lockdowns when it first came out and the government just doesn’t seem to be listening to the people. I mean we’ve got well over 3,000 people here who are just tired of being stifled,” Carritt said.
Another activist, Corrina Fischer of the group End Alberta Lockdown, portrayed the rodeo as pushback against excessive and arbitrary restrictions.
“They’ve had enough of the lies and they’re ready to stand up and say alright we have freedom. I don’t even recognize Canada anymore. We have a choice, if I’m sick, I’ll stay at home,” Fischer said.