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Ottawa police will 'dismantle' vehicle protests if seen on 'Freedom Convoy' anniversary

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Ottawa police chief Eric Stubbs said he is clear that the Ottawa Police Service will not tolerate vehicle-based protests in the downtown core, as the anniversary of the Freedom Convoy protests approaches.

The Ottawa Police Services Board will receive an update on police preparations for a possible 'Freedom Convoy 2.0' Monday, as the city braces for potential events to mark the one-year anniversary of the protests against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and public health measures.

Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs is scheduled to address the Ottawa Police Services Board during this afternoon's meeting, and the board will receive what is called a "Major Event Operational Update: Convoy 2.0" during an in-camera session.

Speaking to reporters Monday ahead of the board meeting, Stubbs said police are monitoring intelligence, reaching out to organizers and security partners ahead of this weekend.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

He said the plan could possibly result in roadblocks or road closures, if necessary.

The 'Freedom Convoy' rolled into Ottawa on Jan. 28, 2022, to protest the COVID-19 public health guidelines. Hundreds of vehicles and people blocked streets around the Parliamentary Precinct for more than three weeks.

In the lead up to this weekend's one-year anniversary of the event, police say residents and businesses will see an increased police presence from time to time in the downtown core. 

"We continue to closely monitor the potential for vehicle-based protests happening in or travelling through Ottawa between now and mid-February," police said in a Twitter thread.

"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. 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."

Stubbs said the intelligence police are monitoring is “all over the place,” as there are multiple groups involved with the convoy movement. There could be no protest at all, or perhaps only a couple hundred people might show up this weekend, he said, but he also said that this weekend is just one of several dates police are watching.

“There are a number of significant dates in the next six weeks related to the convoy, or dates when convoys could be coming through, possibly on the way to Manitoba,” he said. 

In November, James Bauder, the co-founder of the Canada Unity group, announced plans for a 'Freedom Convoy 2.0' in Ottawa Feb. 17 to 21. However, Bauder announced in late December that the reunion was "out of service."

In December, Stubbs told CTV News Ottawa the service would be ready for a possible reboot of the 'Freedom Convoy' protest. The new chief said the service had been procuring equipment and intelligence gathering.

Wellington Street remains closed to vehicle traffic in front of Parliament Hill since the end of the 'Freedom Convoy.' Ottawa's transportation committee will discuss short-term plans for the road, including possibly reopening it, on Wednesday.

Stubbs said he would support a reopening of Wellington Street to vehicle traffic if the plan is part of a broader examination of the all the security around the parliamentary precinct.

“Wellington Street is just a piece of that,” he said. 

Police say they "remain committed" to the safety and well-being of residents following the 'Freedom Convoy'. With several events coming up, including Winterlude in February, police say they will ensure residents remain safe.

"There is much to do and see in Ottawa this winter, including upcoming Winterlude activities," police said.

"This will include event road closures in the downtown core to facilitate pedestrian safety for people visiting the various Winterlude locations."

Police preparing for presidential visit 

The Ottawa Police Services Board will receive an in-camera update today on operational plans for an upcoming presidential visit.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced earlier this month he would be making his first official visit to Canada as president in March, but did not say where he would visit.

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