Police and city officials are preparing for a convoy of truck drivers protesting against vaccine mandates to gather in Toronto this weekend, with Mayor John Tory promising to do “everything we can” to avoid the disruption on display in the country. capital city.
“I’m made it clear to (Toronto Police) Chief Ramer that we must work together to do everything we can to avoid the kind of situation that Ottawa’s residents and businesses are currently facing in order to keep Toronto’s residents secure, and to try to ensure that any protests are respectful and peaceful, Tory told the city council Thursday morning.
Toronto police issued a statement on Wednesday saying the force was “aware” of and preparing for a demonstration scheduled for Saturday in the city center. Flyers circulating online are urging supporters of “Convoy for Freedom” to meet at designated locations throughout the GTA and then head to Queen’s Park for a dinner protest.
“The service will have a police operation in place to ensure public safety and keep emergency access roads to hospitals free,” Toronto police said.
Tory said he had met Thursday morning with Ramer, senior city officials and the Toronto Fire for an update from police, who “continue to gather information about this possible protest” and will provide more information Friday.
Given Queen’s Park’s proximity to the array of hospitals along University Avenue, Tory assured that any protest in the area “absolutely cannot block access to the hospitals.”
“I support the Toronto police in taking the necessary steps to prepare for this possible protest, focusing on doing everything they can to protect the safety of Toronto’s residents and businesses and to minimize any disruption,” Tory said.
He added that the partial lifting of provincial COVID-19 restrictions means that this weekend is the first time in several weeks that restaurants can open for indoor dining. The notion “that any protest would keep these companies – which have been hit hard by the pandemic – from being open or driving customers away is also unacceptable,” he said.
Police in Ottawa have come under increasing criticism for their handling of the hauliers’ protest, which is now entering its seventh day; a convoy of semifinals and protesters who have clogged the streets in the center and closed shops, and which has led to complaints of harassment, spouting all night and racist symbols that have been displayed by some participants.
Protesters have stated they will not leave until Canada lifts health restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
Amid growing calls for police to clear what some call an occupation – and as the city prepares for possible counter-protests this weekend – Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said Wednesday that all options are on the table to end the protest. Among other things, the “extremely rare” step of summoning the Canadian Armed Forces.
“The longer this lasts, the more I am convinced that there may not be a police solution to this demonstration,” Sloly said, promising to hold those who commit crimes and traumatizing residents accountable, but stressed that the police must be “responsible, lawful, ethical and measured.”
Asked about the hauliers’ protest by a Hamilton radio station on Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he hopes it is “a peaceful protest.”
“We live in a democracy, and if people want to go down and protest, God must bless them. I understand their frustration, “he said, adding that things have been” tough “in Ottawa for businesses that cannot open.
A spokesman for the Ontario Provincial Police said Thursday that the force would not discuss “operational plans” but said it was aware of the potential protest, noting: “We will work with our police partners to ensure the safety of all, including them. participating in a demonstration. “
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