Ottawa's mayor and police chief are defending the non-confrontational response to a days-long protest against COVID-19 measures that has paralyzed the national capital's downtown.
The ire of Ottawa residents about traffic gridlock, the incessant blare of truck horns, harassment of service workers and fouling of property has sparked questions concerning the role of police in ensuring public order.
City officials stressed the volatility of the ongoing protest Monday and the need to avoid inflaming the situation in a way that could prompt serious violence.
Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly told a news conference that negotiations with some of the main demonstration organizers had already led to a significant drop in the number of vehicles and people taking part — talks that would continue.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the police had done "an incredible job" of maintaining the peace given that many demonstrators arrived "with a lot of fire in their belly and looking for a fight."
Sloly praised the bravery, compassion and professionalism of his members and partner agency employees for keeping the city safe during an event "that could have become riotous."
"We have had no riots, no injuries, no deaths ... That is a measure of success for any jurisdiction in Canada, and quite frankly, anywhere in the world."
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Ottawa police have advised people to avoid the city centre — where trucks from the protest convoy jam roads — forcing many to work or study at home, while some businesses and a vaccine clinic have simply shut their doors.
The disruptions prompted many residents and local politicians to urge the demonstrators to leave so city-dwellers can once again move about freely.
Watson said the national capital is used to protests "but it's time for this one to move on."
"Our residents have been through enough."
Police said they have avoided ticketing and towing trucks to prevent confrontations with demonstrators. Even so, the force put the cost of policing the ongoing protest at more than $800,000 a day.
"We are emphatic in our desire to resolve these demonstrations as quickly and safely and effectively as possible," Sloly said, adding all options, including enforcement actions, are on the table.
Sloly acknowledged the lengthy protest has been "extremely difficult" for residents, saying police have been restricted in their ability to respond to anything other than emergency calls.
He said now that the demonstration had become somewhat smaller, the force would shift resources to better address public concerns.
The Ottawa police are also setting up a hate crimes hotline, staffed by trained investigators, for the public to report altercations in any way related to the protest.
"We already have a number of hate-related incidents that we are investigating," Sloly said.
The Ottawa police response has seemed highly disorganized and uncertain, indicating a lack of preparedness, said Jeffrey Monaghan, a Carleton University professor who studies the policing of public demonstrations.
It appears there were no advance decisions about what would be allowed during the protest and what would not, Monaghan said earlier Monday.
"Why wasn't this done beforehand? They had quite the lead-up time. And it really seems like they were just kind of hoping it would go away, or would just resolve itself."
Monaghan said the police could defuse the tense situation by allowing protesters to remain but ordering the trucks to clear out of downtown.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2022.
I have not expertise on
I have not expertise on policing in such situations, and yes it's positive that there has been no violence so far. But there needs to be consequences for those involved who won't go home and who are making lives miserable for Ottawa residents and businesses. This should include financial consequences. Right now the so-called freedom of these protesters outweighs the freedom and rights of local residents. That is not how it should be in a democracy. I hope the fact that this protest has been allowed to go on past the weekend doesn't embolden these Far Right factions to take further disruptive actions.
Mayor Watson, please let's
Mayor Watson, please let's not confuse obnoxiousness for "fire in their belly."
If these folks had fire in their belly, they would be focusing all this "fiery" time, money, energy, passion, and tootin' and hollerin' on fighting the climate emergency in order to literally safeguard their children's future.
So, wait, what the police +
So, wait, what the police + mayor are saying is that they didn't want to enforce the law because the people involved were dangerous hooligans who might have caused a lot of damage and perhaps bloodshed if riled. Whereas, since climate protesters, BLM protesters and other relatively left wing types are nice, nonthreatening people with non-fictitious worthy causes, it's safe to break their heads.
Clearly, the takeaway is that climate and anti-racist protests, if they want to do their rallies unmolested, should become significantly more violent and dangerous. Good to know. /sarcasm
. . . Of course we all know this is a lie. If right wing crazies protest peacefully and undisruptively, the cops leave them be because they're peaceful. If right wing crazies protest violently and threateningly, the cops leave them be because they're dangerous. If people who aren't right wing crazies protest, they get arrested and beat up and kettled and ridden over by horses. If they're violent it's because they were violent. If they're peaceful it's because the police lied and claimed they were violent--usually violently smacking cops in the baton with their heads.
Bottom line: The police back fascists. They don't do their job seriously if it involves inconveniencing fascists. Something needs to be done about this, because fascists are becoming too big a problem to just leave them be.
I should note to be fair that
I should note to be fair that in Vancouver this is generally not the case--the RCMP might get weird out in interior BC, but protests in the city of Vancouver, the police are generally pretty simpatico.
Bring in the army! In BC if
Bring in the army! In BC if you stand in front of a logging truck you get pushed to the ground, sprayed in the face with pepper spray & arrested, and if you try to stop industry from drilling on private territory the guns come out, dogs, huts burned, thrown in the snow put in a cage & arrested……what’s the story here? I have no faith in the RCMP anymore. Cheerio from salt spring
Though I have great respect
Though I have great respect for the 90% of truckers who are vaxxed and have passports and would never protest over a healthcare issue, I have no sympathy for the convoy truckers and their misinformed and delusional tripe. They represent a small minority, an extremist faction of Canadian society, the tiny part of the anti-vaxx 10% willing to bully for their cause in winter in a city far away. They are blockading a city and greatly harming their cause by their stupid, lowbrow actions aimed at ordinary citizens, and likely have garnered loads of disgust from the unassailable majority of Canadians.
However, I do have sympathy for the Ottawa police on this one because it's a very potent precedence never seen before. Clearly, negotiation and a de-escalation narrative are rightly given priority. It's clear that these big rigs can do a tremendous amount of damage and cause multiple deaths if even just one or two lone wolf drivers go psycho on the city. These rigs are mobile fuel bombs and powerful battering rams that can take out a building. All it would take is a single trucker to pop the cap off one of dozens of 300-litre tanks of diesel fuel in this convoy and hold a lighter aloft to cause panic in the streets.
What bothers me about some of the comments is that they appear kneejerk and stem from not seeing the obvious. Right or left politically, this particular group of protestors has arrived armed with massive and highly dangerous weapons. Fairy Creek sympathizers, BLM, climate and civil rights protestors have never appeared in any Canadian city armed to the teeth, let alone with an army of weaponized trucks. You don't go in with a tinpot force and start teargassing and pepper spraying without a detailed plan, including a strategic retreat or calling in pre-arranged reinforcements if necessary. Why should we expect the police to risk their lives so cavalierly?
Having said that, there are some obvious ways to fight back. Big trucks can be blocked by other big trucks, not to mention excavators, loaders and earth movers, all of which a city already has at its disposal. You can block the front and back ends of a line of offending trucks with these machines within minutes, therein immobilizing it. Trucks require a huge turning radius, so the ones in the middle of the line cannot be driven out easily.
An operation to liberate Ottawa will need to be co-ordinated between several agencies including the RCMP, the OPP, the fire department and paramedics. It stands to reason that the best time for the operation would be in the middle of the night when the streets are empty and the extremists are off their guard. Yes, residential downtown Ottawa and the other communities with spillover convoy blockades will be awakened very quickly with very short notices to evacuate or stay inside.
I don't have any military / police strategy knowledge, but it has to be assumed -- evidence to the contrary -- that these nutbars are actually somewhat smart, and the cops have to be ready for a well-planned reaction once they start extracting protestors from their trucks after the convoy columns have been blocked in place with heavy machinery. That could mean having a fleet of fire trucks already in position and set up to instantly spray foam on any fire that erupts from the convoy
. Ditto paramedics on standby in the side streets. Processing those who have been arrested while possibly undressed on a frigid night is also something that requires planning.
Ottawa and the province also have to anticipate other fleets of sympathetic convoys roaring in from all over the nation once word of the bust gets out. They need to be tracked and roadblocks set up this time to stop or divert them before they reach the city. Again, big machinery will be of great help to counter the threat of angry, deluded people behind the wheel of big rigs wanting to crash through. At the same time, legitimate travellers need to be processed and let through. Planning is required by all.