Ottawa police Chief Eric Stubbs says resources, tow trucks and staffing plans are in place as the city prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the “Freedom Convoy.”
On Jan. 28 and 29, 2022, thousands of people arrived in Ottawa with trucks and big rigs, protesting COVID-19 restrictions and the Liberal government on streets in front of Parliament Hill.
Ottawa police say they are ready for the possibility that the anniversary could spark another demonstration, and Stubbs told a meeting of the police services board Monday evening that the force will not tolerate any vehicle-based protests.
He offered little detail on what police believe may be planned for this weekend, or how many demonstrators are expected.
“We’re monitoring a number of intelligence lines. We were talking to a lot of people, a lot of organizers,” Stubbs told reporters Monday afternoon, adding that road closures are possible.
Last year’s protests lasted more than three weeks, and a police operation to end the demonstration that had taken over the streets near Parliament Hill only unfolded after the federal Liberals invoked the Emergencies Act.
During a public inquiry into that decision last fall, Ottawa police received heavy criticism for their response.
In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Stubbs insisted that police are closely monitoring the situation and are prepared to scale up their operations if need be.
“Residents and businesses will see an increased police presence in the downtown core and its surrounding areas. Although there is the potential for some level of protest, we are prepared,” the statement said.
“For this weekend and all through February, we have a scalable operational plan with external agencies supporting us. We will have resources, logistics, traffic, towing and staffing plans in place to address any type of scenario and will not allow the conditions to occur that resulted in the February 2022 convoy.”
Wellington Street, which runs east-west in front of the Parliament buildings, has remained closed to traffic since last February.
City council is set to decide on whether to reopen the street on Thursday. While the police chief told reporters that he supports reopening it, he also said there is more work to do before that happens.
“I personally think that the street opening is one of many issues that needs to be addressed to ensure that there’s proper structure, programs and agencies that are looking after the security of that general area,” said Stubbs.
Stubbs added that he has been in contact with the head of the Parliamentary Protective Service, which has advocated for an expansion of its jurisdiction to include the street. A committee of members of Parliament has made the same recommendation.
Stubbs said a decision hasn’t been made yet, but if that happens, he promised that they would work together.
—Cindy Tran, The Canadian Press