Up to 831 RCMP Officers Approved to Join Ottawa Police as Motorcycle Convoy Arrives

Lee Berthiaume and Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press

Posted Wednesday, April 27, 2022 at 2:34 PM EDT

Last Updated Wed Apr 27, 2022 6:20pm EDT

OTTAWA – The Ottawa Police Services Board has approved the appointment of up to 831 RCMP officers to assist municipal police, promising a strong presence in the capital and zero tolerance for hate this weekend.

Ottawa police have asked the board to approve the expedited appointment of “up to 200” additional officers as they prepare for a second convoy, this time with hundreds of motorcycles instead of trucks.

Up to 631 RCMP members who were appointed to help end the February blockade of the center could also be reappointed as needed.

The Ottawa Police Service says it is asking for those appointments to expire on July 4 “in anticipation of additional events and demonstrations.” They usually last five years.

Acting Police Chief Steve Bell told Ottawa city councilors Wednesday that his force has no intention of allowing the “Rolling Thunder Convoy” to become another illegal occupation, and that officers will act quickly when they see some irregularity.

“Threatening or intimidating behaviors will be addressed with all appropriate enforcement actions,” Bell said.

“Investigative teams, including our hate crimes unit, are focused on gathering evidence and pressing charges where appropriate. Display of hate symbols such as swastikas will result in charges.”

The chief also tried to reassure residents still shaken by the “Freedom Convoy,” in which hundreds of protesters occupied the city center for three weeks to protest COVID-19 restrictions and demand the resignation of the government. liberal.

The occupation disrupted traffic, forced businesses to close, and sparked reports of intimidation, harassment, and hateful conduct. The incessant sound of air horns from large trucks disturbed residents for days. Police Chief Peter Sloly resigned after many criticized the police for not taking a tougher line with protesters.

The demonstration, which also disrupted several border crossings with the United States, ended after the federal Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Law and police stepped in to detain and arrest dozens of people.

In a message to Ottawa residents, Bell said police will not “allow unsafe or illegal conditions that could lead to another protest.”

“We have heard your concerns,” he said. “We know that it is still reeling from the disruption and criminality.”

The group Rolling Thunder has not been clear about why they are joining, except to say that they will be in Ottawa to “peacefully celebrate our freedom.”

The “Rolling Thunder Ottawa” website said it is associated with the groups Veterans for Freedom and Freedom Fighters Canada, both of which appear to have ties to the Freedom Convoy.

Veterans for Freedom describes itself on its website as a group made up of Canadian veterans working to “restore fundamental freedoms to all Canadians” and “uphold Canadian law.”

All the members of the steering committee of that group have ties to the previous protests, including one who was among the spokespersons for the convoy. Others appeared in YouTube videos supporting the convoy protesters.

Freedom Fighters Canada’s website says it is an organization “demanding an end to all government mandates” and an end to “tyrannical legislation.” Some of its organizers also attended or publicly supported earlier protests.

Bell told council members that police are in contact with Rolling Thunder organizers, who expect more than 500 motorcycles to arrive in the city. The force is also working with the RCMP and intelligence agencies to identify potential threats.

“Residents will see a large police presence, including statutory and parking enforcement officers,” he added. “There will be a significant increase in officers from the Ontario Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other municipal police jurisdictions.”

Convoy organizers have said they plan to tour the city, stopping at the National War Memorial, as well as a march and rally on Parliament Hill where speeches will be made.

Police will not allow protesters to bring their bikes onto the streets around Parliament Hill, sparking potential conflict, but Bell told councilors there are no plans to erect a fence around the National War Memorial.

Freedom Convoy protesters were criticized for standing at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and parking their trucks on the site during the first week of the occupation. Fences were put up, but were later torn down by protesters.

Several councilmembers representing areas around the city center raised concerns about reports that convoy participants plan to set up or tour different neighborhoods, asking what police plan to do about it.

There were also concerns that the ride would interfere with a major bicycle fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, which is scheduled for Saturday.

Bell indicated that police would keep a close eye on the Rolling Thunder convoy as it made its way through the city, backed up by cranes and physical barriers. Police also plan to have “rapid response teams” ready to respond to emergencies, he said.

Downtown Ottawa Councilwoman Catherine McKenney told Bell that residents are nervous and “fed up too. And the residents I hear from will not accept any incursion into their neighborhoods by white supremacist, racist or extremist groups of people.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 27, 2022.


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