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Police on guard against ’lone wolf individuals’ as protest convoy arrives in Ottawa

Protest will be massive in scale but 'polarizing in nature,' police chief says

Des dizaines de personnes sur la rue Wellington, en face du parlement, à Ottawa

Des manifestants sont rassemblés sur la colline du Parlement à Ottawa en soutien au convoi de camionneurs qui s'opposent à la vaccination ogligatoire.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Félix Desroches

RCI

Ottawa's police chief says officials are on guard against and « lone wolf individuals« social media actors » » who might try to infiltrate this weekend's convoy protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Members of a protest organizers call the Freedom Convoy steadily streamed into the nation's capital Friday as various groups from across the country prepared to rally against the federal government's vaccination mandate for all cross-border drivers (new window), which came into effect earlier this month.

At least hundreds more were expected throughout the day and over the weekend, and Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly says authorities weren't sure how large the rally would be.

A count by Kingston Police Friday morning had 17 tractor trailers and 104 tractors without trailers, along with more than 400 passenger vehicles and six RVs, leaving the city en route to the capital. Kingston is about 174 kilometres southeast of Ottawa.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered on an overpass in the Montreal region to greet the passage of convoys of truckers heading for Ottawa.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered on an overpass in the Montreal region to greet the passage of convoys of truckers heading for Ottawa.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Daniel Thomas

Sloly told residents and visitors to expect a large police presence across the city, but especially in the downtown, with officers in uniform and plain clothes. 

The demonstrations this weekend will be unique, fluid, risky and significant, said Sloly in a news conference Friday morning.

Police and intelligence officials are also keeping a close eye on parallel demonstrations and are expected to film the weekend's events, but police said they have been unable to connect with most of the organizers.

While the protests are national in scope and massive in scale, he said, they are also polarizing in nature and come with significant risks.

Sloly pointed out that organizers of the main convoy have promised demonstrations will be peaceful but that there have been various online threats locally, nationally and internationally inciting violence, hate and criminal acts.

We do not know all the parallel demonstrations that may occur and/or the lone wolf individuals who may insert themselves into the mix for various reasons, Sloly said.

At least one vehicle flying a confederate flag — the flag of the southern states whose secession set off the American Civil War (new window) taken up by some white supremacist groups – was seen driving around the city's downtown Friday.

'Every confidence' demonstrations will be peaceful, lawful

Some of the hateful rhetoric over public health measures has been ongoing since the start of the pandemic, Sloly said, and directed at local, provincial and federal politicians, including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.


Trucks parked along a sidewalk.

The truckers arrived to demonstrate in Ottawa.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Felix Desroches

Ottawa police say they have yet to receive a direct threat assessment for any group that's coming to the capital.

We cannot, however, ignore the rhetoric. We cannot ignore the direct hate language and threats, and we cannot ignore the direct attempts to incite violence and criminality in and around the demonstration, Sloly said.

He also said he recognizes that comparisons to the events in Washington, D.C., last January, when a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, will likely be on the minds of many. He said he believes Canadians will behave better.

We have every confidence in the world that the vast majority of people who are choosing to come to this city, or who live in this city and choose to participate in some form or other in the demonstrations, will do so as Canadians do: lawfully, peacefully and with respect to everybody, said Sloly.

Yet, he reiterated that police are prepared to arrest, charge and prosecute any individuals or groups who incite violence or commit crimes, whether intended or spontaneous.

Police closed several roads throughout downtown Ottawa on Friday to prepare for the protesters and more roads were expected to be closed as the convoy grew in the capital.

Kimberley Molina (new window) · CBC News

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