The annual pig roast at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 124 didn’t go exactly as planned Sunday.
About 15 members of the At War for Animals Niagara animal rights group showed up at the NOTL legion. They stood on King Street, waving flags and holding signs. One of the protesters occasionally turned on a megaphone with a siren, disrupting music at the event.
Protester Adam Stirr said the demonstration was a “furthering of our beliefs” and a “way to get attention.” For longer than a year, his group has been protesting Sentineal Carriages’ use of horses to pull carriages around Old Town.
“It’s not just about the horse carriages. It’s about any use of animals, including raising them, killing them and eating them,” he said.
Three Niagara Regional Police cars, parked along King Street, were on scene to maintain peace.
Police officers only intervened when the pig’s head was placed on a stick in front of the protesters.
The protesters started their usual protest in Old Town.
Jade McLauchlan, a Sentineal Carriages driver, said the activists started their protests Sunday at the corner of King and Queen streets but then filled the sidewalk near the Prince of Wales Hotel, where people get on and off the carriages.
She said they also followed the carriage drivers around, blocked one of the horses with a car plastered with signs. One of the protesters held a sign in front of the horse, which made the horse uncomfortable.
“They were on and off the sidewalks, on the roads with their signs. They were hollering at our customers today,” McLauchlan told The Lake Report. “I was really anxious being out there and driving because you don’t know how extreme they’re going to go.”
McLauchlan said she didn’t charge her customers for the ride because they didn’t get an “enjoyable experience” with protesters following them around.
“We shouldn’t have to work in an environment like that. They (protesters) keep on saying they have rights and freedom to protest. But I have a right to have a safe work environment and have the customers have a safe and enjoyable ride when they’re with me,” McLauchlan said.
Stirr, who said he is vegan, said people are welcome to protest any of his group’s gatherings because that’s the “beauty of democracy.”
One police officer told The Lake Report he suggested protesters turn their megaphone off because there could be veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder present at the pig roast. He said he told one of the protesters to “judge accordingly.”
The officer also said he suggested legion members remove the pig’s head as it might “incite” the protesters.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero was at the event, too.
“What is confounding to me is that a group of 15 people would protest a barbecue of 60 people,” she told The Lake Report.
“You would think they would go to bigger venues in larger cities. So much energy and time wasted. And why the police would not move a protester along, when a rider tells him she feels threatened and afraid is also a concern to me.”
The town and the police, as well as the activists and Locals for Carriages members, a support group, met on Monday morning to discuss a revised protocol agreement that sets the ground rules for protests and counter-protests. Details of the meeting’s outcome haven’t been disclosed yet.