(OTTAWA) Ottawa’s acting police chief warns organizers and participants in a planned motorcycle convoy over the weekend that a longer-term occupation of the federal capital will not be tolerated.
Posted at 4:23pm
Steve Bell reiterated the warning Thursday morning as hundreds of motorcyclists prepare to head into the capital from Friday. Chief Bell said organizers of this “Rolling Thunder” convoy said they intended to leave the capital by Sunday.
He warns that Ottawa police stand ready to intervene if they see signs of a camp or other plans to settle in the capital. “We will be very reactive and very proactive in identifying and dismantling,” Chief Bell told reporters Thursday.
The impending arrival of this motorcycle convoy has Ottawa residents alarmed as the “Freedom Convoy” occupied the city’s streets for three weeks this winter. The occupation was eventually dispersed by police and dozens of protesters were arrested.
Rolling Thunder organizers have been vague about the rationale for their Ottawa rally other than to say they want to “peacefully celebrate our freedom.” However, the organization has affiliated itself with several groups apparently linked to the “Freedom Convoy”.
Chief Bell, who promised a heavy police presence this weekend, said Thursday the service had learned a lot from the winter experience. He said the hate crimes unit was already involved in preparing for the operation and anyone displaying hate symbols would be charged.
He also assures that police will arrest all protesters who were in the “freedom convoy” and who are subject to a court order barring them from staying in Ottawa as a condition of their release on bail.
Organizers of the convoy said they plan to arrive in Ottawa on Friday, assemble and drive through downtown on Saturday morning, stopping at the National War Memorial, and a march and rally on Parliament Hill.
One of the convoy’s organizers, Neil Sheard, who has been involved in protests over health restrictions, has warned of “every man for himself” if police don’t let the protesters take the streets on motorbikes around Parliament.
However, Ottawa Police Department has designated much of downtown as “designated downtown areas” closed to vehicles, including several blocks around Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial.
Chief Bell said participants in the convoy would be allowed to walk to Parliament Hill and the Monument, but not by motorbike.
“We have set up a restricted zone for vehicles in the city centre. No motor vehicle involved in an event (rally, parade, demonstration) may enter this zone,” Chief Bell hammered Thursday.
Likewise, participants in the motorbike convoy are forbidden to stop or park throughout the route. Police will also closely monitor places where convoy participants plan to shop for the weekend, he said, including a church east of the city center and a more rural area to the east.
Earlier this week, Councilwoman Catherine McKenney said many residents terrorized by the “Freedom Convoy” had had enough and were prepared to take matters into their own hands should the “Rolling Thunder” convoy break into their neighborhoods .
Chief Bell acknowledged that as a result of February’s events, “trust has broken down between our community and the police service”. However, he urged residents to use the police and avoid conflicts with convoy members.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on Thursday encouraged residents to continue their weekend activities. “We encourage residents to keep shopping downtown, keep shopping at ByWard Market. »