It’s not easy being a politician these days.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek already knew that harassment and targeted online vitriol was an unfortunate part of the job with the rise of divisive politics and the anonymity that social media brings.
What she didn’t expect was to have about 40 protesters show up outside her home on Sunday. The video of the protest was circulating on social media afterwards.
Gondek was just about to take her mother out to get some groceries when the group of protesters took up shop outside her home — which led to a change of plans.
“I knew what I signed up for,” she told Calgary Citizen on Tuesday.
That said, Gondek hopes she and others working in political posts have more protection in future.
“It is absolutely inappropriate to target an elected official’s home.”
It comes with the territory but that doesn’t make it okay
Gondek says she isn’t naive to the reality that some people will forgo the proper channels to try to make their position heard.
“Take it up at their place of work,” she says, adding more should be done to protect politicians.
Calgary’s mayor said she is happy to work with provincial partners to see if they can strengthen safety measures designed to protect public officials.
“Hopefully, we will create legislation that makes this an offence,” Gondek adds.
The group of protesters, many wearing disguises over their faces and touting signs, were seemingly targeting Gondek for her pro-mask, pro-vaccine views.
A similar protest took place on New Year’s Day when approximately 50 people participated in a protest of Alberta’s public health orders outside the home of Health Minister Jason Copping.
Undermining their cause
Political scientist Lori Williams says while people have the right to protest, doing so at the home of a politician can lose sympathy for the protesters.
“I think there are a lot of people that are denouncing the location of the protests. And frankly, I think it’s undermining the cause of people that are there,” Williams says.
“If they’re looking for a more positive response, if they’re looking for public support, this is not the way to get it.”
It brings into question the motive of the protesters, she says, adding it could be an intimidation or nuisance tactic that not only affects the politicians and their families but their neighbours, too.
“There seems to be a universal condemnation of the invasiveness of this kind of protest. And not just for the politicians in question, but for the neighbours who have absolutely nothing to do with government policies,” Williams says.
Crossing the line
While Gondek and some others are speaking out about possible legislation against these tactics, Williams says that can be a grey area.
“That gets tricky because we have a constitutional right to freedom of assembly,” she says, adding maybe there could be different rules for peaceful assembly in residential neighbourhoods.
“But again, it winds up in tricky constitutional territory.”
Williams believes that most people who believe in the right to protest condemn these types of acts, no matter where they stand politically.
“The fact that there is such widespread condemnation, I think this is seen as an invasion of a neighbourhood, of a residence, of a private space. It’s seen as inappropriate. And if the purpose of a protest is to generate attention and support, then it’s not accomplishing that.”
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