Police increase downtown presence, access to Parliament Hill restricted on anniversary of 'Freedom Convoy' protest
Access to Parliament Hill will be restricted this weekend and police are promising a zero-tolerance approach to noise, parking and fireworks violations on the one-year anniversary of the 'Freedom Convoy' demonstration.
An increased police presence and parking restrictions are in effect in the Parliamentary Precinct. Ottawa police are vowing to deal with any illegal activity or attempts to block downtown streets with "swift and immediate" action.
Police have not said how many protesters they are expecting downtown this weekend, but the Parliamentary Protective Service issued a "notice of demonstration on Parliament Hill" Friday afternoon saying up to 500 demonstrators are expected downtown Saturday and Sunday. The area councillor says demonstrators have permits for a "dance party" on Parliament Hill, but no permits have been issued by the city.
The PPS says public access to Parliament Hill will be restricted to the Queen's Gates and Metcalfe Gate, while the Bank Gate, O'Connor Gate, Elgin Gate, and Canal Gate will not be accessible to the public.
"All public tours are cancelled," the PPS said, referencing all tours of the House of Commons and the Senate are cancelled for Saturday and Sunday.
Friday afternoon, an increased police presence could be seen at the barriers blocking Wellington Street at Elgin Street. There was also some new bike-rack fencing outside the Senate of Canada building across from the Chateau Laurier Hotel, and placed near the entrances to Parliament Hill.
Police and Bylaw Services are telling residents they will taking a zero-tolerance approach to parking, noise and fireworks violations all weekend, and visitors will see "increased enforcement" in the downtown core all weekend.
Special parking restrictions will be in effect until Sunday in an area stretching from Wellington Street in the south, Laurier Avenue in the north, Bronson Avenue in the west and Elgin Street to the east. Drivers are being told to follow signage and park their vehicles accordingly.
"Enforcement of the Special Event No Stopping Zones will commence this evening," Ottawa Bylaw said on Twitter. "Watch for and abide by all parking signs."
Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services says special parking restrictions are in effect in an area stretching from Wellington Street to Laurier Street and Bronson Avenue to Elgin Street.
Bylaw Services will also have additional officers in the core to enforce all parking regulations and to issue tickets to anyone violating other city of Ottawa Bylaws, including:
- Unnecessary motor-vehicle or other noise, including speakers
- Construction or installation of structures on City property
- Public urination and defecation
- Open air fires
- Lighting and discharging fireworks
Ottawa police say residents and businesses will see an increased police presence from time-to-time in the downtown core, and any illegal activity or road blocks will be dealt with quickly.
"Illegal activity or obstructing or impeding the flow of traffic with vehicles on any roadway will not be tolerated and will be met with swift and immediate action," police said Thursday evening.
"During any assemblies, unlawful behaviour will be addressed promptly by Police or By-law to ensure the safety and well-being of the public."
The increased police presence comes as Ottawa prepares for the one-year anniversary of the 'Freedom Convoy' demonstration.
On Jan. 28, 2022, thousands of vehicles and people rolled into downtown Ottawa as part of the protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health measures. The protest occupied several streets in the Parliamentary Precinct for more than three weeks, and forced the closure of several businesses including the Rideau Centre.
Chief Eric Stubbs says police will not tolerate vehicle-based protests in the downtown core.
“People want lawful, peaceful and safe protests on Parliament Hill. We deal with that almost every day. It’s the freedom of every Canadian to protest and we support people with that, but if it’s not lawful, peaceful and safe, that’s when we have to be more assertive,” Stubbs told reporters on Monday.
“We’ve been clear, I’ve been clear that our goal is to not have a vehicle-based protest and if someone attempts that, we will take action to dismantle it very quickly.”
Stubbs said intelligence officers are monitoring "all over the place" and there could be no protest at all or a couple of hundred people showing up this weekend.
Police said last week that it had not seen "specific information" on plans for large-scale demonstrations or protests in Ottawa, but said the potential for some levels of protest exists.
"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," police said on Twitter.
University of Ottawa criminology professor Michael Kempa says there will "absolutely not" be a repeat of last year's occupation of city streets.
"On one level, the police, the city are far more prepared than they were a year ago," Kempa said on Friday. "They seemed to have learned many of the lessons which most importantly have to do with coordinating information amongst each other and the OPP and being prepared to enforce the law."
Kempa doesn't expect to see the same number of protesters in downtown Ottawa that were present last year.
No permits issued by city of Ottawa, councillor says
The councillor for Somerset ward, which includes Parliament Hill, says the city has not issued any permits for demonstrations this weekend, but there are plans for a "dance party" on the hill.
"The demonstrators have permits for a “dance party” on Parliament Hill, but the City has not issued any permits," Troster said in a statement on her website. "If protesters attempt to move onto Wellington Street or other nearby streets, by-law and OPS are on standby."
Troster says the city has staffed the 311 Service Ottawa line to support any incidents this weekend.
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