Protesters will be gathering in Tecumseh Park on Saturday, voicing their displeasure with COVID restrictions.

Police Chief Gary Conn says officers will be keeping close tabs on things.

“We have been in consultation with the organizer of the event, (Chief Medical Officer) Dr. Colby and our municipal bylaw department as well,” Conn says. “We’ve also developed an operational plan for this event. We will have ample resources for the projected crowd that may be potentially protesting.”

Both Mayor Darrin Canniff and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Colby have expressed concern with the potential for protests coming to Chatham-Kent from other jurisdictions, and potentially increasing the risk of further spread of COVID-19.

“Advocating for less stringent precautions at this time when it’s so important to keep this (virus) away from the vulnerable members of society,” Dr. Colby says. “I have a lot of trouble understanding the rationale here.”

“It’s not all local people doing this, in Aylmer I understand there was a lot of people coming from Toronto right through to Windsor,” Canniff adds. “As we know, there’s some real hot spots in some areas of Toronto, so having all these people coming to our community, it just raises that potential, even if it’s outdoors or not.”

Conn says similar freedom rallies held in other communities around southwestern Ontario have been fairly peaceful.

“I touch wood when say that because obviously I don’t want to jinx us, but there have been no substantiated risks or issues yet reported, if that should change then obviously we will have to revisit our plan.”

The Chatham-Kent March for Freedom is being organized by a group called Hugs Over Masks, and will begin with a rally in the park at noon, followed by a march through the downtown core.