(OTTAWA) Last weekend’s “Rolling Thunder” protest in the capital cost between $2.5 million and $3 million for police forces, the chairman of the Ottawa Police Services Board said Monday.
Updated at 9:54 PM yesterday.
Eli El-Chattiry said police now expect more such protests to take place in the capital and he believes a lasting solution must be found.
The protesters, many on motorcycles, arrived in Ottawa Friday afternoon as part of the “Rolling Thunder” rally organized by “Freedom Fighters Canada”, a group denouncing mandatory health measures.
Mr El-Chantiry said the police, some of whom came as reinforcements from outside the capital, were prepared for any eventuality and had information about the motorcyclists and their plans.
But less was known about the intentions of other non-central protesters who arrived in vans, trucks, cars and campers, the chairman of the Commission of Police Services.
“This group, we don’t know who they are,” said Mr. El-Chantiry admitted in an interview with The Canadian Press.
The demonstration, which was relatively peaceful, could have gotten worse had the police not been so well prepared, Mr. El Chantiry. “It could have easily gone the other way. Many people were refused entry to the city center with their vehicles. †
The Ottawa Police Department had called in more than 800 police officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other law enforcement agencies, specifically to block highway access roads into the city center, with the clear goal of preventing an occupation or seat in Ottawa, as in February.
Public Safety Secretary Marco Mendicino thanked police, including the RCMP, “for their firm and effective response to the events in Ottawa over the weekend.”
Mr El-Chantiry said the police also have rapid response teams. Police with riot shields were deployed in the city center on Friday evening.
Acting Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell was unavailable for interview Monday but had passed on important information to Mr El-Chantiry.
Over the weekend, 10 people were arrested, including seven who took part in previous protests for “freedom convoys” and who violated the bail conditions that prevented them from entering Ottawa, Ms El-Chantiry.
The Ottawa Police Department said in a statement that the arrests are related to several offenses, including breach of bail, assault on a police officer and mischief. The statement added that all traffic restrictions in Ottawa have been lifted, including the closure of downtown streets.
Lessons from last winter
El-Chantiry said Ottawa police learned from the February protests, when masses of protesters opposed to health measures and the federal government paralyzed the streets of Ottawa for weeks.
But the protests are evolving and taking different forms, which is why the Ottawa Police Department must be ready, he said. “It could happen at any moment, so we have to be prepared and have the necessary resources. †
The federal government agreed to pay the $35 million bill for overseeing the three-week “freedom convoy” protest in February.
The occupation also prompted Justin Trudeau’s government to invoke the Emergency Measures Act for the first time. The siege ended after hundreds of officers dispersed the crowd and made dozens of arrests.
The chairman of the Ottawa Police Services Board said a plan – including financial – is needed to deal with future protests, which show no signs of abating.
“We need to find a sustainable way to do this,” he said. I will work with the federal and provincial governments to find a sustainable solution for the future. †
It’s important that residents of downtown Ottawa can enjoy their city without constant interruption, El-Chantiry said. “I want the community that now lives there to enjoy their summer and their home. †
Secretary Mendicino went on to say that “residents of Ottawa, and of course all Canadians, have the right to lead their daily lives in peace and security. We are thankful that this was the case last weekend.”