Mayor Jeff Genung says the protest at the Cochrane RancheHouse on Feb. 9 wasn't friendly or peaceful, and there's no room in our community for such behaviour.
He says it was the first time in living in Cochrane for 40-plus years that he felt unsafe while walking through the crowd gathered at the RancheHouse in advance of his State of Cochrane address.Last night, town councillor spoke of some of the incidents, and their reaction to what they experienced at the RancheHouse protest.
Mayor Genung was disgusted and disappointed in the behaviour of some of the individuals involved who confronted his family and spit at his wife while entering the hall for the State of Cochrane address.
"It's one thing to peacefully demonstrate and share opinions, it's another thing to take it out on families."
Genung walked into the hall separately from his family in hopes of not subjecting them to any incident. He says that was far from the case when they were identified.
"The insults and outright nastiness to my family that night were cowardly and unnecessary. Spitting in my wife's face and threatening my children is a new low, and I am saddened that this is happening in our community."
"Take up your issues with me, take up your issues with the mayor and council, share your disappointment, your concerns, your desire for something to be different, but that was unacceptable."
The mayor expressed pride in his family for holding up their heads high despite facing intimidation, spit, and bullying.
Councillor Alex Reed said protest organizer Deborah Murphy also grabbed him while entering the hall.
"I had an unfortunate experience with the organizer, who did physically put her hands on me and tried to block my entrance to the meeting, then shouted out, 'He's one of those councillors,' and then a barrage of vulgarities was hurdled at me and those around me."
Councillor Susan Flowers, also in attendance, says we have the right to protest, but not in a manner when harm is done.
"I know that two of the council members were grabbed by the main organizer at the event, insults and obscenities were screamed, intimidation was used and they had children in the group with them," says Flowers. "Such a bad example."
She suggests assault charges should be considered.
Flowers was left with the impression most of the protesters weren't from Cochrane and found it difficult to sort out the message they were attempting to send.
"I went away thinking it really had nothing to do with us," she says. "It's more of a statement about global issues that are completely out of our control."
Councillor Patrick Wilson, who arrived late, said it was sad to hear about some of the 'bad actors' at the protest but said some legitimate concerns were raised with the people he spoke with.
"I had a little different experience where there were some legitimate grievances out there that I was talking to people about, and I appreciated the people that showed up and actually equated themselves properly to protest rather than some of the stories I heard about some of the people who came before me, because that's truly concerning."
While not attending the address, when hearing of the protest, Councillor Tara McFadden attended to speak to some of the protesters and understand their concerns. She believes the protest tainted an honest and authentic attempt to engage with our community, and it wasn't the right place for the protest.
"This is a tough enough job as it is to go through bylaws, policies, and day-to-day engagement, but to have to go into an experience where your safety is threatened or worse, your family is threatened, is a terrible thing, and I'm sorry for anybody who had to experience that."
The State of Cochrane address that took place inside is now available for viewing.