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Niagara Falls
Thursday, April 18, 2024
Editorial: The police and the horse protesters

Discretion can be a subjective concept. What you think is a reasonable allowance might seem wholly unacceptable to your neighbour. The devil is in the details.

When it comes to law enforcement, police occasionally have some latitude in how the law gets applied, especially in relatively minor matters. Sometimes that speeding ticket turns into a stern warning, sometimes it’s better to talk out a solution than to apply a heavy-handed approach.

A story from Crystal Beach had us shaking our heads this week: A family of beachgoers from Niagara-on-the-Lake, who set up a small shade tent for their children, were evicted from the waterfront by Niagara Regional Police officers because no tents are allowed on the beach. Fort Erie has a bylaw governing … beach tents.

Ironically, the little tent was smaller than some of the large beach umbrellas that are legally permitted on the beach. This tempest in a teapot attracted Niagara police officers, who forced the family to leave.

Surely members of our police service’s senior command are embarrassed by such a clumsy, ham-handed decision. Maybe the officers could have said: “Yeah, it’s a tent, but it’s pretty small and it’s not causing any real problems. Let it slide.”

Contrast this with the same police department’s handling of aggressive protesters who have been plaguing Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake for more than a year. As Jennifer Jones-Butski points out in a letter on page 6, there is no comparison in the response.

We respect free speech and assembly, but some of the well-documented acts by the group protesting horse-drawn carriages in Old Town have deserved a more decisive police response than we have seen to date. Texting while driving, harassing individuals, following people, trespassing on private property are just some of the incidents that would seem far more heinous than having the nerve to set up a modest tent on a beach. To keep your kids cool. On a hot summer day.

We ask that the Niagara Regional Police deal with the complaints against protesters with the same kind of zeal they exhibited at Crystal Beach.


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