The village of Richmound held a protest on Saturday, in hopes of spurning a cult led by a woman who has declared herself the "Queen of Canada" to leave the southwestern Saskatchewan community.
A group calling itself the "Kingdom of Canada" has set up camp in the small village — about 65 kilometres northwest of the town of Maple Creek, near the Saskatchewan-Alberta border — and called for public execution of elected officials and other members in and around Richmound.
The group held a meet-and-greet for potential new followers and their supporters on Saturday.
Leader Romana Didulo is known as a far-right QAnon conspiracy theorist. She has declared herself the "Queen of Canada," among other titles, including calling herself the national Indigenous leader.
Didulo and some of her followers have been travelling around the country for some time.
They were forced out of Kamsack, Sask., following a peaceful protest by residents there on Sept. 13. The group then made its way to Richmound on Sept. 15, and has been staying at the former Richmound School, having been invited by property owner Rick Manz.
Manz is facing an assault charge after RCMP received a report of an assault following an altercation in Richmound last Friday.
On Wednesday, Richmound resident Arlene Miller shared a Facebook post inviting people to join the community's "peaceful protest" on Saturday and Sunday. She planned the protest with a committee made up of other residents and urged others to share the post around.
She called for people from neighbouring communities to join in the demonstration, saying it will be respectful and legal.
Aaron Wenzel, the mayor of Leader, Sask., and Sean Checkley, mayor of Fox Valley, came to Richmound in show of solidarity, along with Doug Steele, the member of the Legislative Assembly for Cypress Hills.
The MLA and the three mayors held a joint news conference on Saturday, ahead of the planned protest.
"The area isn't just, you know, community by community — we are a region and work very closely and collaboratively with with each community," said Fox Valley's Checkley.
Many Richmound youth go to school in Fox Valley, he said, so the communities have close ties.
Recently, the playground in Richmound was shut down due to safety concerns because of the group's presence.
"We are gathered here, I guess for one thing and one thing only," said Richmound Mayor Brad Miller.
"As a community of Richmound, I'd like to say we're standing together as one and our focus is to move her [Didulo] out of Richmound and hopefully back into the United States."
The Richmound mayor said he tried to meet with Didulo to get a better understanding of why she was in the village, but she refused.
After a previous protest against the group on Sept. 24, the cult threatened village administration with "cease and desist" letters, Miller previously said, accusing them of corruption, bullying and stalking, and calling those behaviours "dangerous," "illegal" and "immoral."
The cult threatened "publicly broadcast execution" if the village did not follow Didulo's decrees.
Miller said Saturday that more cease and desist letters have been emailed to community members, including him. He also said Didulo's followers have been walking around taking videos and pictures of residents.
A Richmound resident, whom CBC has agreed not to name, said on Thursday that she is scared of having Didulo and her followers in the village.
"I'd really like to see these people leave," said the resident.
"At the same time, I don't want to see another community have to deal with this. I really don't. It's not fun. It's not fair. Like, who starts putting cease and desist orders and execution lists out? How is that a thing that can happen?"
Miller said Saturday he wants more government intervention to push Didulo and her followers out.
"I think for the provincial government and also the federal government, I think they should be getting in this so we don't have this problem anymore and we can work together."
High stress in the community
Shortly before the protest began Saturday, Miller addressed the crowd, reading from a paper, which outlined how everyone can lawfully participate in the event.
"This situation is so surreal and it's like we're in a movie. And we just want them gone right?" said Miller.
Members of the various village communities gathered outside on the school limits with signs attached to their vehicles and also in hand. Part of the protest consisted of some vehicles driving around the school in circles while honking.
Shauna Sehn moved to Richmound in 1985 for her first teaching job. She says there's been "very high stress and tension" in the community recently.
A sign outside of the school — meant to poke fun at how Richmound is sometimes confused with Richmond, used to read "Richmound School, with a you '' — was recently vandalized by one of Didulo's followers, according to Sehn.
For Sehn, part of the stress has come from being followed in town and having photos and videos taken of her. She said her hope was for a big turnout on Saturday.
"We not only want this group gone from our village, but we don't want any other community in our province and anywhere in Canada or anywhere in the world to have to be spending the money and the time dealing with the stress of this type of situation," said Sehn.
"We're sick and tired of walking around and having a cellphone pop up and be in your face and on your licence plate."
RCMP sent a mobile detachment to Richmound on Oct. 6 in response to the group's presence.
Police say the group does not pose an "imminent threat," despite issuing the threats of public execution.
In an emailed statement to CBC on Friday, Saskatchewan RCMP said that the safety and security of the community of Richmound is a top priority.
"We are aware of the potential events scheduled for this weekend. Saskatchewan RCMP will maintain a 24/7 police presence for the foreseeable future, which will include regular patrols in the community. This will include Saturday and Sunday," RCMP said.
On Saturday morning, RCMP set up checkpoints on each side of the village.
In her Facebook post, Arlene Miller encouraged protesters to drive around the village on Saturday and Sunday with respectful signs. She encouraged "noisemakers."
"We understand people are very emotional and at wit's end but we must not engage," she said in the post. "We only want to irritate them and let them know we have not given up!!"
The village protest was scheduled to continue until 7 p.m. CST on Saturday, and resume from noon to 5 p.m. CST on Sunday.