Potential for 'some level' of vehicle protest, Ottawa police say

Police reroute a vehicle as officers attempt to restrict traffic in Ottawa in April 2022. Following the self-styled Freedom Convoy protest blocked downtown streets for weeks, there have been a number of smaller protests. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Police reroute a vehicle as officers attempt to restrict traffic in Ottawa in April 2022. Following the self-styled Freedom Convoy protest blocked downtown streets for weeks, there have been a number of smaller protests. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Ottawa police say they're ready if another vehicle-based protest comes to the capital.

As CBC reported earlier this week, a group of self-styled "freedom advocates" are travelling to Ontario with mixed objectives — including to "demand" the RCMP arrest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Their timing and final destination is unclear.

While they say they don't have specific information about a large demonstration, Ottawa police said in a Thursday news release they have plans to keep streets safe and traffic moving.

Police said "the potential for some level of protest exists" and illegal activity or blocking any roads with vehicles "will not be tolerated and will be met with immediate action."

During the self-styled "Freedom Convoy" protest in 2022, thousands of people with big-rig trucks and smaller vehicles gridlocked some downtown Ottawa streets for several weeks to protest COVID-19 public health measures and the federal Liberal government.

Hundreds of officers from across the country were eventually assembled to take back Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill, as well as other downtown roads, in a massive police operation.

At the time, many in the community said they felt abandoned by police and accused the force of failing to take action.

The internationally watched crisis resulted in the resignation of then police chief Peter Slolythe ousting of police board chair Diane Deans for her efforts to replace him and an inquiry that found the use of the Emergencies Act to help end the protest was justified.

The section of Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill has been closed to motor vehicles since the end of the convoy protests in late February 2022.
The section of Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill has been closed to motor vehicles since the end of the convoy protests in late February 2022.

A section of Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill was closed to motor vehicles for months following the end of the Freedom Convoy protest in late February 2022. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

There have been other attempts at vehicle protests in Ottawa since February 2022, none of which have had the numbers or disruption of that winter's truck convoy protests.

At times, Ottawa police have run a "vehicle exclusion zone" downtown that involved checkpoints to not allow protesters in vehicles into the area near Parliament Hill.

"There is zero tolerance for unlawful behaviour and vehicle-based demonstrations," Thursday's news release from Ottawa police reads.

"We will have resources, logistics, traffic, towing and staffing plans in place to address any scenario."

Ottawa police have also said they'll have more officers around Carleton University and the University of Ottawa Sunday for the annual Panda Game football game and its pre- and post-game parties.