Flag march marks "end of the beginning"

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

June 24, 2009

Even though people who participated in a Canadian flag march needed a police escort to walk by the Douglas Creek Estates property in Caledonia, organizers deemed it a huge victory.

"Today the police actually had to protect the rights of non-natives," said Mark Vandermaas, a member of the Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE).

The OPP had disallowed "flag raising" events across from Douglas Creek Estates in the past, partly due to the "extreme elements" that persist, Vandermaas reiterated.

In order for the march to be successful, he believes that many things had to change behind the scenes at the OPP's senior level.

The march was in support of Randy Fleming who was arrested and charged with obstructing police back on May 24, when he walked on to a road allowance on the west side of Argyle Street, in front of the DCE property, with a Canadian flag.

The arrest occurred prior to a planned "flag raising" event on the same day, which the OPP disallowed due to public safety concerns.

Approximately 25 people gathered outside the Lions' hall in Caledonia last Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Most were carrying Canadian flags. Some held signs with a picture of Fleming being arrested, his head pinned to the ground by the knee of an OPP officer. The signs read: "Excessive Force. Arrested for walking down road with Canadian Flag."

"I'm humbled by it a litt bit," said Fleming. "It's kind of neat when the town gets together for a good cause... Right now the county does not understand what the rule of law is."

After a few speeches, people got in vehicles and gathered outside Dave Brown and Dana Chatwell's home on Argyle Street South. Police escorted the group on to the east shoulder where it proceeded northbound towards Tim Hortons shortly after 2 p.m. A cruiser followed behind with lights flashing.

Approximately 20 people had gathered across the road on Douglas Creek Estates, however there was no hostility shown by either group. Police presence appeared to be minimal.

"We're doing nothing to provoke the occupiers (on DCE) at all," said Vandermaas.

In his opinion, those present marched with dignity.

CANACE organizers including Merlyn Kinrade said they cooperated with police in order for the march to take place. Instead of following the same path that Fleming took on May 24, they agreed to walk down the east side of the road instead.

"Some people might see that as backing down, but my intention was to minimize conflict," said Kinrade.

"This was a monster step in the right direction by our boys and girls in blue,: he said later.

"This is not the end," Vandermaas stated. "We're at the end of the beginning... We're still going to hang flags... These events will not stop until Canadian flags are hanging on every (hydro) pole across from DCE."

At a small rally outside the Cayuga OPP detachment following the march, CANACE Executive Director, Gary McHale was clear about his group's intentions.

"We're doing it (flag raising) every second Sunday of the month until we're allowed to do it, he said.

However, McHale commended the OPP for being cooperative prior to the march and for showing "proper respect" for him and his organization lately.