Aylmer, Ont., has declared a state of emergency over a planned anti-mask protest

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs in B.C. last March.

The Town of Aylmer, Ont., has declared a state of emergency less than a week before an anti-mask rally planned for Saturday. This would be the second demonstration of its kind in the community of about 7,500 people in southwestern Ontario.

The declaration, signed by Mayor Mary French, went into effect at 3 p.m. Monday and was “a result of the potential for civil unrest and service disruptions relating to protests and demonstrations regarding COVID-19 directions.”

Aylmer police also confirmed in a tweet that the declaration was a response to the Freedom March planned for the afternoon of Nov. 7.

The previous “freedom rally” took place at Palmer Park on Oct. 24 and saw hundreds of demonstrators without masks or following social-distancing rules. One speaker at the rally insisted that during the pandemic, “the government is completely unnecessary to save us.”

According to the municipality’s statement, the state of emergency protects volunteers, staff and elected officials, and will assist with funding as a result of the emergency and conveys the seriousness of the emergency.

To date, Aylmer has a total of 89 COVID-19 cases according to Southwestern Public Health, accounting for more than a quarter of Oxford, Elgin and St. Thomas counties’ cases.

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