Niagara-on-the-Lake’s resident horse-drawn carriage activists announced the end of any “official involvement” in the NOTL campaign via social media Tuesday.
That means while action may continue in the fight against the carriages, any protests or planned events will be done without the leadership of At War for Animals Niagara, spokesperson Adam Stirr said during a phone interview.
He said he was feeling a lot of pressure from the community to “push harder” with his protesting tactics, but that wasn’t something he was prepared to do. It was time for him to take a step back from leading the charge, he said, which will allow room for protests to possibly move in a new direction.
“There isn't going to be any kind of leaders or central organization. There won't be really any one group that can be singled out as running the protest. It's kind of going to be a decentralized collective of individuals,” he said.
Jennifer Jones-Butski, a spokesperson for the Locals for Carriages opposition group, said, while the reason for the announcement could be interpreted in many different ways, she thinks it might have to do the Bill 156, the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act.
She said she believes the group posted its withdrawal in NOTL because “they know Bill 156 is inevitable.”
“They know Laura (Sentineal) spoke to the bill, and they know that means the carriages very likely could get legislative protection,” she said.
If the carriages do not get more protection through the bill, she said it could also mean the carriages could become a larger target, she said.
“I honestly don't blame him for wanting to take a step back and advising everyone that they're liable for themselves at this stage in the game. There are a lot of very angry, radical people out there,” Jones-Butski said.
Stirr said At War for Animals Niagara will remain intact, but its role will shift toward documenting and recording protests and events as they’re happening.
“We're going to transition into more of a media outlet for animal rights stuff in the region. So, we're going to be covering different events from an animal rights perspective,” he said.
But he said he wasn't sure the carriage supporters could count this as a win yet.
“I think it might be a little premature to start calling this a win. They might want to see what moves in after us. They might find themselves begging for us to come back,” he said, adding he doesn't know what that new direction could look like.
“Every single individual that will be present is there representing themselves and they will each govern themselves accordingly as to what they feel that they want to be doing,” Stirr said.