Police board approves hundreds of RCMP officers to help during Ottawa weekend rally

·2 min read
Parliamentary security personnel walk past a barrier indicating a road closure on Wellington St. in front of Parliament Hill, Wednesday, April 27, 2022 in Ottawa.  Police will restrict motorized access to Ottawa’s downtown area this weekend as a motorbike protest is scheduled to take place. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Parliamentary security personnel walk past a barrier indicating a road closure on Wellington St. in front of Parliament Hill, Wednesday, April 27, 2022 in Ottawa. Police will restrict motorized access to Ottawa’s downtown area this weekend as a motorbike protest is scheduled to take place. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The civilian board that governs the Ottawa Police Service has approved the force's appointment of hundreds of RCMP members to help, if needed, during this weekend's Rolling Thunder Rally.

The Ottawa Police Services Board held a special meeting to consider the force's request for additional help on Wednesday evening.

It gave the nod appointing 200 new RCMP officers and reappointing 631 other RCMP members who had previously been given special constable status to help end the Freedom Convoy protests this past winter.

All appointments and reappointments are valid until July 4.

"This is one of the new and improved ways we're looking at approaching these demonstrations, these events," interim police chief Steve Bell said during the specially convened meeting.

"[We want] to make sure we have the resources properly sworn in ahead of time so that we're not in a reactive response if something does need to be actioned as we move through the weekend."

WATCH | Another protest on wheels set to enter Ottawa this weekend:

The police's response was heavily criticized during the Freedom Convoy, which arrived in the city in late January and stayed for weeks. Some questioned why heavy reinforcements were not called in earlier.

Now the city is preparing for "Rolling Thunder Ottawa," a rally that isn't specifically promoting a petition for changing COVID-19 rules, by seeking additional support before protesters arrive.

This weekend's rally has aligned itself with groups with various motives, including a veterans' group aimed at restoring "fundamental rights and freedoms" and a non-profit dedicated to the "end of all tyrannical bills and legislation."

Participants plan to hold a Friday evening demonstration on Parliament Hill, a Saturday morning service at the National War Memorial, another Saturday afternoon Hill demonstration and a Sunday church service in the city's Vanier neighbourhood.

"At that point, they have said they will depart the city," Bell told city councillors earlier on Wednesday.

Bell had already signalled earlier this week that officers from other agencies such as the RCMP and the OPP will be on hand to assist this weekend, as those requests would have been approved by the federal and provincial governments, though the Ottawa police will continue to lead the police effort.

The ramped-up police presence in the downtown core will become noticeable beginning on Thursday, Bell added.

Ottawa police, together with the City of Ottawa, have specified an area of downtown Ottawa where no vehicles associated with any protest will be allowed to enter. Local and pedestrian traffic will be allowed.

City of Ottawa
City of Ottawa

The city has also announced it will crack down on any bylaw violations.

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