Poll shows Winnipeggers split on how to handle long-term protests

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Peggers are mixed when it comes to protesters occupying public spaces, a new poll shows.

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As officers demolished the main camp outside the Manitoba Legislature this week, a recent Probe Research poll for the Winnipeg Free Press and CTV Winnipeg found that people are generally divided about how to handle long-running protests.

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Of those surveyed, Probe found that 36% of people think protesters should only be allowed in public spaces for a limited amount of time. A quarter said they should be cleared immediately and 30% said it mattered.

Seven percent of respondents said people should be allowed to protest indefinitely, with 17 percent of younger people prefering permanent protests.

Older adults are more likely to say protests should last for a period of time, with 44% of those aged 55+ responding this way, compared to 29% of those aged 18-34.

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The 25% of people in favor of immediate evictions tend to be older adults (34%), men (30%) and progressive conservatives (41%).

This week, the Winnipeg Police Service pressed charges against protesters who occupied an encampment on the north side of State House earlier this week.

“What we saw was an erosion of cooperation and an increase in both rhetoric and aggression, and a complete lack of willingness to be sensible when it comes to restricting camp expansion,” said Dave Dalal, superintendent for unified operations at the WPS this week.

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“They were determined to build more and more structures that were against the law of the country.”

The camp, which was adorned with signs and flags highlighting a variety of issues from the discovery of potential unmarked graves to COVID-19 restrictions and conflicts in the Middle East, had originally added a teepee with another over the summer.

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Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said people have a right to protest but not a right to set up permanent structures and create an unsafe environment for people accessing Parliament grounds.

“It’s a place to be safe and it’s a place to come and make your voice heard, but not a place to come and stay and make others feel unsafe,” he said told the Canadian Press earlier this week.

“There have been arrests (recently) of people using things that could be used as dangerous weapons. We have experienced an escalation in the last few weeks.”

The camp, which was demolished this week, is separate from an Indigenous-run camp on the east lawn that has existed for more than a year and has not been the subject of police action.

The Manitoba government passed legislation this year banning storage in the Legislature and barring people from delivering generators, firewood and other goods. People can be evicted and face fines of up to $5,000.

In February, supporters of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” occupied streets in front of the legislature for several weeks. The protest cost Winnipeg police nearly half a million dollars.

Probe Research surveyed a random representative sample of 600 Winnipeggers between September 8th and 18th. It can be said with 95% confidence that the results are within plus or minus four percentage points of what they would be if the entire Winnipeg adult population were surveyed.

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-with Canadian Press files

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