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Feb. 29, 2020 | Saturday
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Protesters threaten ‘spectacle’ at Icewine Village this weekend
File photo.

Animal rights activists are threatening to launch a new campaign, called “Operation Embargo,” at Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Icewine Village this weekend in continued protest against the town’s horse-drawn carriages.

The group calling itself At War For Animals Niagara has planned a “spectacle” around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday to announce the start of the campaign, co-founder Adam Stirr said.

And though he wouldn’t describe what the “spectacle” might entail, he assured it would be legal.

“I can just suggest that you come down and see for yourself on Saturday,” he said.

Eduardo Lafforgue, president of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce, said all organizations involved with the Icewine Festival have been made aware of the protesters’ threatened action.

“The town, Niagara Regional Police, the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism NOTL and our own private hired security are aware of the potential campaign launch. We all hope those involved remain civil,” he said in an email to The Lake Report.

Konzelmann Estate Winery’s director of marketing, Andrew Niven, said the threat of protest shouldn’t have any effect on the festival.

“We’ll, of course, continue to celebrate icewine over the next two weekends, placing guest experience first – regardless of any outside distractions,” he said.

The new protest strategy is a way for the animal rights group to “apply pressure” to town staff and residents to ban horse-drawn carriages in NOTL, Stirr said.

The group is adopting protest tactics that have been successful for anti-fur campaigns and other activist groups around the world, he said.

That includes having a significant presence at major NOTL tourist, wine and town events and festivals, “hijacking” hashtags on social media and an “organized global call for a total boycott of all travel to and purchase of any NOTL products,” until the town bans horse-drawn carriages, said a media statement issued by the group.

Stirr said the targeted protests at events and festivals, such as the Icewine Village, will broaden the activists’ reach.

“Everyone in town has a say in this. There is a great number of people in the town who don’t agree and would like to see the end of the carriages,” Stirr said. “And this may be a way to reach those people on the fence.”

While he said he believes the ongoing protests near Sentineal Carriages’ posting at King and Queen streets “would work in time,” he thinks this new approach could be more effective.

“We’d like to see it move forward. We’d like to sit with the town and the carriage operators and put everything on the table and find another option,” Stirr added.

As for “hijacking hashtags,” he said it’s a method to push the group’s message into the news feeds and onto social media platforms of people who may not know about the “anti-speciesism” philosophy the group members say they stand for.

“There’s hashtags that are used on social media. What is often done by activists is that they will use those same hashtags, so that way when people search that hashtag, they get both sides of the story.”

An email response from municipal staff said the town is aware of the protest and has taken measures to ensure public safety.

“Lord Mayor (Betty) Disero has requested police presence at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Village at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 18, the reported launch date of AWFAN’s campaign, to remind those involved to remain civil,” the town said.

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