Despite new provincial restrictions introduced this week, large crowds descended on Chinook Centre during Black Friday sales — and Calgary police say a couple of instances quickly got out of control.
Multiple fights broke out Friday evening, police confirmed, and officers escorted a “whole bunch” of unruly patrons out of the facility. No charges were laid.
At this point, Calgary police Staff Sgt. Mike Calhoun said the emphasis remains on education rather than enforcement — but that could change.
“We’re starting on giving warnings,” Calhoun said. “If we’re starting to see [people] not complying, we’ll move to enforcement.”
Cadillac Fairview, which owns the mall, said a group of youth “impeded traffic flow and caused disturbances” throughout the mall, which resulted in numerous police officers attending the site to escort them from the facility.
“We will continue to work closely with CPS, who will have a presence again on site today and support our efforts to ensure customers’ shopping experience and safety is not hindered,” Cadillac Fairview said in a statement.
The company said it was actively monitoring capacity levels throughout the holiday shopping season to fall in line with the province’s new restrictions.
The facility has also implemented additional measures like enhanced cleaning protocols, signage, directional arrows and installation of barriers where required.
‘It makes me feel awful’
Taylor Tuffnell, who works in the mall, said she saw multiple “huge gatherings” of shoppers moving through the hallways.
“All of a sudden, another huge wave started happening,” Tuffnell said. “So I was like, this is awful! So I’m going to do something [about] this, because this shouldn’t be happening right now.”
In a recording shared to social media, Tuffnell captured the busy hallways within the facility, a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in a regular year.
“It is Black Friday, so we were expecting the mall to be pretty busy,” she said. “[But we had] people hanging out, talking in the hallways, blocking entrances and lineups. That’s basically what [the posts were] showcasing, just how many people were chilling at the mall.”
Tuffnell said it’s hard to say how this year might compare to Black Fridays of years past, but said it “felt like so much more” because many were chatting and hanging out instead of shopping.
“It made me feel awful. I love my store, I love my job, I love going to work every day,” she said. “But I am also filled with this overwhelming anxiety when I see these situations, because I have family too.
“To see people taking it lightly and hanging out in malls, instead of going out for essentials for Christmas shopping, holiday shopping, it’s so disheartening.”
Tuffnell said she hoped that people attending malls would follow implemented safety protocols.
“[If not], I would just say, guys, stay home,” she said. “If you’re not going to buy things in the mall, just stay home.”
New provincial restrictions
New mandatory restrictions announced by the province this week require businesses that can remain open to limit their capacity to 25 per cent of fire code occupancy.
Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said Friday that about 700 peace officers in Alberta would be given the authority to enforce the province’s health orders.
Madu said the province is ready to enforce the new rules, but added that Alberta is not asking officers to “harass responsible Albertans going about their everyday lives.”
“My expectation is that those who are in violation of the measures that we have put in place would have to be held accountable,” Madu said at the news conference.
“I think you are going to see a heightened level of enforcement in those cases where there are individuals who are blatantly not compliant with the health measures.”
WATCH | Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces new COVID-19 restrictions for Alberta
Speaking earlier this week, Premier Jason Kenney said his government will re-evaluate the new restrictions on Dec. 15 and impose stricter measures should case numbers continue to rise at the current rate.
“We will continue to assess it, but we’re not going to let political pressure or ideological approaches to cause indiscriminate damage to people’s lives and livelihoods,” Kenney said.
“We’re going to protect the health-care system using targeted measures. We’ll have to be more restrictive if they don’t work.”