Vehicle protests will be ‘dismantled’ during Freedom Convoy anniversary

January 24, 2023

Ryan Witkowski

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With the one-year anniversary of the Freedom Convoy approaching, the Ottawa Police Service is making it clear they will not tolerate vehicle-based protests in the city’s downtown core.

On Jan. 23, Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs met with the Ottawa Police Services Board to provide an operational update with their plans to counter any potential protests.

Ahead of the meeting, Stubbs shared with reporters that police have been monitoring intelligence – as well as reaching out to organizers and security partners – to get a better idea of what to expect this weekend. With multiple groups involved in the potential convoy, Stubbs says it’s been difficult to pin down exactly what they will be dealing with in the coming days.

“Some of the information we have received is a little all-over-the-place, and our confidence in exactly what may occur isn’t 100%, so that’s why we’re having a scalable response,” he said.

During last year’s Freedom Convoy – which rolled into Ottawa on Jan. 28, 2022 – hundreds of trucks blocked streets around the Parliamentary Precinct for more than three weeks. Stubbs said they will look to avoid a repeat of last year’s events and have spoken with organizers to make those intentions clear.

“We’ve been clear … our goal is to not have a vehicle-based protest,” he said. “And if someone attempts a vehicle-based protest, then we will take action to dismantle it fairly quickly.”

Stubbs would not speculate on an expected crowd size, saying it could range from no protest at all to perhaps only a couple hundred people. With that in mind, he says the “scalable response” is equipped to handle anything from a peaceful gathering to a vehicle-based protest, saying the department will have tow trucks and other equipment at the ready in the event of a vehicle based protest.

“There is some information that people want to have a lawful, peaceful protest on Parliament Hill … Something like that is welcomed. That’s the freedom of every Canadian, to have a lawful, safe, peaceful protest. And we support people in that role,” Stubbs said. “However, if it’s not those three criteria – of peaceful, lawful and safe – that’s where we have to be a bit more assertive in terms of what we do and how we manage that.”

Stubbs says downtown residents should expect to see an increase in police presence as the weekend approaches, adding that road closures – or road blocks – could occur depending on their reaction to potential protests.

“Although we are not seeing specific information to indicate that there will be large-scale demonstrations or protests in Ottawa, the potential for some level of protests exists,” the Ottawa Police said via Twitter. “As such, 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.”

As police continue to monitor intelligence from a number of groups in relation to possible protests, at least one major organizer has already said they will not be participating in the reunion event.

In November, James Bauder, the co-founder of the Canada Unity group, announced plans for a four-day Freedom Convoy 2.0 in Ottawa starting on Feb. 17. However, citing several “security breaches” and “personal character attacks” following the announcement, Bauder declared the convoy “out of service” in late December.

“Since I made the official announcing plans to bring the Official Freedom Convoy 2.0 back to Ottawa area for a four-day reunion, I have had several security breaches, and personal character attacks made against me and others on Team Canada Unity,” Bauder said in a statement on the group’s Facebook page. “As a result of these security breaches that are beyond our control, I cannot in good conscience guarantee public safety as I promised.” LL

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