Trucker convoy: Ottawa police, security experts warn against counterprotesting | The Canadian News

Ottawa police and security experts are warning about the high risk to residents planning to protest against the trucker convoy’s ongoing demonstration in the city’s downtown core this weekend.

The downtown protest, which is stretching into its second week as of Friday, is expected to swell from its current size of up to 250 vehicles again this weekend, according to OPS intelligence.

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Ottawa police vow ‘surge and contain’ response to trucker convoy ‘occupation’

Ottawa police deputy chief Steve Bell said an estimated 300 to 400 more trucks and 1,000 to 2,000 convoy supporters are expected in the city this weekend.

Chief Peter Sloly said the demonstrators with the truck convoy are “highly organized, well-funded, extremely committed to resisting all attempts to end the demonstrations safely.

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“This remains, as it was from the beginning, an increasingly volatile and increasingly dangerous demonstration.”

On the other hand, police expect up to 1,000 counterprotesters to take up space downtown as well this weekend.

But Bell told reporters Friday that while police have plans in place to manage the expected crowd, the situation will be more manageable without counterprotesters there.

“They’re frustrated, they’s fed up. They want to see an end to this, and I understand that. My ask is, do not attempt to protest, ”he said.

“We would like to not have that to be another dynamic we have to manage within the crowd.”

Regina Bateson, a University of Ottawa professor who studies violence in collective action, told Global News that the remaining members of the original convoy that arrived last weekend are likely the “more hardcore” demonstrators, with some of the more moderate participants having gone home over the course of the week.

Click to play video: 'Trucker protests: Bloc Québécois MP suggests' crisis team 'creation to deal with' siege 'on Ottawa'

Trucker protests: Bloc Québécois MP suggests ‘crisis team’ creation to deal with ‘siege’ on Ottawa

Trucker protests: Bloc Québécois MP suggests ‘crisis team’ creation to deal with ‘siege’ on Ottawa

The group of up to 2,000 more demonstrators expected this weekend “could be an entirely different” mix of “extremists and moderates,” she said.

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The potential for “escalation” rises when counterprotesters are expected to be on the street, Bateson said.

“In these types of situations, bringing in large numbers of counter-protesters, it creates the potential for conflict,” she said.

Community calls to cancel counterprotest plans

Some Ottawa activist groups typically at the center of organizing resistance movements are also wary of counterprotesting plans, which seem to be in flux as of Friday afternoon.

Horizon Ottawa and the Coalition Against More Surveillance both publicly stated they will not be supporting protests that have been organized largely via Instagram and the Ottawa subreddit.

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A pinned post on the local Reddit page is still calling for a peaceful counterprotest at Ottawa City Hall from 2 pm to 5 pm on Saturday, but notes that some groups are pulling their participation over “security concerns.”

Mackenzie Demers and reddit user ReclaimOttawa are named as the two primary organizers of the counterprotest in that post. The author of the post states that “both of the organizers seem to wish to continue, in some capacity.”

But ReclaimOttawa, who identifies themselves as Josh Catan in an Instagram post, has called for an outright cancellation of the demonstration on that social media channel.

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Citing police statements about the potential risks of demonstrating this weekend, ReclaimOttawa wrote that “organizers of the counter demonstration decided the best thing to do is to call off the counter demonstration to focus on supporting residents at this time.

Attempts to reach Demers through the Reddit account have been unsuccessful this week.

But Demers said in a reply to another Reddit user asking about the ReclaimOttawa post on Friday afternoon that, “The event is still on even without the support of that instagram page.”

Sam Hersh, board member at Horizon Ottawa, told Global News the group was among those at the nearly three-hour meeting and confirmed that most participants seemed to want the counter-demonstration called off.

Ottawa Center MPP Joel Harden is among those encouraging residents to avoid the demonstrations on Saturday.

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In previous posts, ReclaimOttawa had written that the counterprotest movement had “taken on a life of its own” and expressed concern that individual protesters would show up without property safety protocols or the safety of a group.

Multiple Reddit users in the comments of the counterprotest thread said they still intended to demonstrate downtown on Saturday.

Among the safety tips listed for those who do plan to attend are wear masks and hearing protections, to use the buddy system and not to stay beyond the 5 pm cutoff.

Read more:

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Ottawa police warned Friday that officers will be actively collecting evidence on infractions during the protest, from both the convoy and counterprotesters.

“We strongly urge all demonstrators and those engaging with demonstrators to act lawfully, peacefully and respectfully,” the OPS statement reads.

Ottawa police are also deploying 150 additional officers to neighborhoods surrounding the convoy’s main footprint on Wellington Street this weekend to mitigate the impact of the demonstrations on residents.

Police say they’re “hardening” the barrier around the primary protest area to prevent additional trucks from setting up in front of Parliament Hill and warning they’ll be enforcing traffic bylaws for those illegally parked.

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– with files from Global News’s Amanda Connolly

Click to play video: 'Truckers protest: Ottawa police to deploy additional officers ahead of anticipated demonstrations this weekend'

Truckers protest: Ottawa police to deploy additional officers ahead of anticipated demonstrations this weekend

Truckers protest: Ottawa police to deploy additional officers ahead of anticipated demonstrations this weekend

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