The RCMP is sending more officers to respond to the ongoing anti-COVID-19 restrictions protests in Ottawa, amid calls for a more aggressive response to the demonstrations.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said in a statement Thursday night that RCMP had approved a request from the City of Ottawa for additional resources to help the Ottawa Police Service, including an increase in officers.
“This request is in addition to RCMP resources and support already in place since the arrival of the convoy in Ottawa,” Mendicino said.
A RCMP spokesperson could not confirm how many officers were being deployed or when they were expected to arrive.
Protests against government mandates for COVID-19 vaccines and masks, as well as restrictions on certain businesses, have plagued the streets surrounding Parliament Hill for nearly a week.
Organizers of the truck convoy have vowed not to leave until policymakers meet their demands to end public health mandates tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least four arrests have been made so far for uttering threats, mischief and weapons charges.
Ottawa police said Thursday it has issued 30 tickets related to excessive noise created by truck horns as well as various traffic offences — marking a change in tactics after earlier refusing to pursue bylaw charges.
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Thursday also saw Ottawa police and the National Capital Commission respond at least twice to a growing stockpile of gasoline, diesel and propane that was set up within a structure in Confederation Park near Parliament Hill.
On Wednesday evening, police released a photo of a suspect they’re seeking to identify in connection with investigations into the desecration of the National War Memorial.
City councillors on Wednesday had suggested it was time to call in the RCMP to help bolster the police response to the protest, pointing to resident complaints of excessive noise and aggressive confrontations with protesters.
At a police briefing to city council that day, OPS Chief Peter Sloly warned Wednesday that there might not be a “policing solution” to the ongoing protest, which is expected to swell in size again this weekend.
Mendicino said Monday on his way out of the Liberal caucus meeting that the RCMP and Parliamentary Protective Service had provided officers and resources to manage the crowds during their peak over the past weekend, adding that there are “good lines of communication” between the city and the federal government.
The minister reiterated in his Thursday statement that RCMP decisions are made independent of his office, which oversees the federal police force.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday responded to calls for the military to step in to clear away the protesters is “not in the cards right now.”
“One has to be very, very cautious before deploying military in that situation,” he said.
— with files from Craig Lord and Rachel Gilmore