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Coronavirus: 3 London, Ont., women charged in connection with Victoria Park ‘Freedom Rally’ – London


London police say the three organizers of the so-called Freedom Rally — which protested mandatory health restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus — held in Victoria Park over the weekend have been charged.

According to police, officers identified the organizers and notified them beforehand that if they went through with the rally, they would be in breach of the Reopening Ontario Act.

Read more: Dr. Mackie said people supporting anti-health measures rally are ‘rooting for COVID’

Also ahead of the rally, local medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie stressed that the use of masks “definitely contributes to reducing the spread” of the virus and that “anyone who is against that is essentially rooting for COVID-19 instead of the health of the population.”

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The event went ahead anyway on Sunday afternoon, police say, with “approximately 200 people” protesting current COVID-19-related restrictions.

As a result of the investigation, police say three women, age 36, 37, and 44, have all been charged with participating in an outdoor gathering which exceeded the number permitted, and hosting an outdoor gathering which exceeded the number permitted.

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All three are due in court Feb. 22, 2021.

Read more: Thousands join in Aylmer ‘Freedom March’ against coronavirus public health measures

Police are reminding the public that hosting or participating in events exceeding the limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings could face charges.

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“Gathering limits are in place for the health and well-being of everyone, and we will not hesitate to take appropriate action when our community is put at risk,” police said in a statement.

“As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, messages from community partners are clear – do not host or attend large gatherings; limit in-person interactions; follow health and safety protocols; and find safe ways to connect with each other.”

Read more: Noise complaint leads to charges after 30 people gather in Richmond St. home: London police

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Under the provincial act, private gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors.

The charges against the organizers of the rally were announced the same day police announced charges against a Toronto woman in connection with an alleged indoor gathering of 30 people, the fourth large indoor gathering to result in charges this month alone.

On Wednesday, the death toll in Ontario rose to 3,554 as 35 more deaths were reported — the highest increase in deaths in the second wave. Ontario has 523 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 159 patients in an intensive care unit and 106 patients in ICUs on a ventilator.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Aylmer officials express disappointment, frustration over planned anti-mask rally' 2:10Coronavirus: Aylmer officials express disappointment, frustration over planned anti-mask rally Coronavirus: Aylmer officials express disappointment, frustration over planned anti-mask rally – Nov 7, 2020

–With files from Global News’ Sawyer Bogdan and Gabby Rodrigues

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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