Kristal Burgess is used to being asked who she works for when photographing community events, but not with the level of suspicion she encountered during a rally held in Salmon Arm over the weekend.
Called the “Rally for Food Security,” posters released in advance of Saturday’s event (April 10) in Blackburn Park, suggested a focus on food security, a seed swap and gardening. However, the posters also promised information on masks and “what you need to know about experimental jabs,” musical guests and guest speakers.
The seed swap and food security elements appealed to Burgess, a professional local photographer who can often be seen with camera in hand at community events.
“I know a lot of people wanting to grow their own food, have a little bit more food security, and that’s what the flyer was about and I wanted to see if it really was about food security and what they were doing,” said Burgess.
Asked Friday, April 9, about the event, City of Salmon Arm administrator Carl Bannister said council approval is required in advance for use of city property but, to his knowledge, it was neither sought nor obtained, and suggested permission may have been denied as provincial public health orders currently allow only groups of up to 10 people to gather publicly, and prohibit cultural events and gatherings.
When she arrived at Blackburn, Burgess counted about 200 people there.
“It was over 350 at the largest count that I had done – there was a lot of people there,” said Burgess, adding she saw only one person among the crowd, other than herself, wearing a mask.
Among the crowd were people from out of town including residents of Kelowna.
Salmon Arm Staff Sgt. Scott West said officers were on hand to ensure the safety of the public and to investigate the breach of provincial health orders. He said in a Tuesday, April 13 release that the investigation was ongoing, and that the RCMP’s findings would be shared with the Provincial Health Authority and the BC Prosecution Service, as anyone not following public health orders can be fined.
Though there was some talk of food security, and what Burgess described as a small seed swap table with an equally small amount of items on it, much of the event focused on individual freedoms.
While photographing the event, Burgess said most people there were kind and accommodating. However, she was also asked several times who she worked for and if she was part of the “fake news media.” One person told Burgess she didn’t belong there because she was wearing a mask. And, despite it being public property, Burgess said another individual threatened her with legal action.
“I respected his wishes to not be photographed…,” said Burgess. “But it was a little bit alarming when he sort of starts yelling at me from a distance because I was using a telephoto lens so I could stay at a safe distance from people as well.”
Burgess called it one of the more uncomfortable events she’s photographed. But she was also impressed by the many smiling families in attendance, “the people dancing, hugs and joy around,” and that she knew many there who she either waved to or exchanged a quick “hello” with.
“I don’t think everybody there was anti-(vaccine), I don’t think everybody there was hating the government,” said Burgess. “I think there was a very wide variety of people that were there, and I think the people there just want a more healthy, natural lifestyle with less control.”
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