A weekend of protests and counter-protests has come and gone, thankfully with no injuries and no arrests.
But both sides are accusing the other of intimidation tactics that could have escalated into a dangerous situation and led to both injuries and arrests.
Everyone has the right to protest, but if confrontation occurs, if there is one violent incident, one person hurt or one frightened horse out of control, it could end in the very situation the local supporters of horse-drawn carriages want to prevent – the protesters getting their way and the horse and carriage businesses being driven out of the Old Town.
It would seem the best way to avoid that would be for Locals for Carriages to pull back from counter-protests and find other ways to show their support.
It may not seem fair — one side gets to protest and local supporters are asked to stay home — and it isn’t fair, but sometimes it’s best to take the high road. It’s not conceding defeat, and may even take the wind out of the protesters’ sails.
How many people knew leading up to Saturday’s protest that the animal rights group has been in town every weekend for eight months? Until recently, it was a pretty low-key protest that received little to no attention, until the locals started showing their support for the carriages in social media and organizing counter-protests.
That’s when the situation became volatile — not through any fault of their own, but simply because two sides, both passionate about their polarized beliefs, were suddenly meeting face to face.
It wouldn’t take much for emotions to get out of control and for the protest to turn ugly, even dangerous.
The lord mayor, Town staff and the Niagara Regional Police will continue to look for ways to allow protesters on both sides to have their say, while doing what they can to ensure the safety of all involved.
Surely that should be the goal for all of us, to dial down the level of confrontation and allow all to express their opinions peacefully, respectfully and safely.