Toronto police to increase presence as ‘multiple protests’ planned for downtown

Click to play video: 'Toronto police heightening presence amid weekend demonstrations' Toronto police heightening presence amid weekend demonstrations
WATCH: Toronto police heightening presence amid weekend demonstrations – Apr 29, 2022

Toronto’s police chief says the force is making preparations for “multiple protests and demonstrations in the downtown core” that are being planned for this weekend.

“The public will notice an increased police presence in and around the demonstration areas and we will be implementing both rolling and static road closures with the objective of safely redirecting people and traffic,” James Ramer said on Friday.

He said officers will be managing an influx of vehicles and people as there are more than a dozen demonstrations, protests and celebrations being planned across the city for both Saturday and Sunday.

Ramer said its anticipated there will be traffic delays and some road closures to ensure public safety.

Read more: ‘Rolling Thunder’ biker convoy to descend on Ottawa. Here’s what you need to know

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“While the Toronto Police Service will always support peaceful demonstration, I want to be very clear that we will not tolerate any intimidation, harassment or hate-motivated behaviour aimed at specific communities,” Ramer continued, as he noted concerns brought to his attention about the Al Quds Day rally.

He also noted that there has been an increase in hate-motivated crimes in Toronto, in part due to awareness but also because the incidents “are sadly becoming more common, not only in our city but across the globe.”

Click to play video: 'Expect Toronto road closures this weekend with more than a dozen protests planned: police' Expect Toronto road closures this weekend with more than a dozen protests planned: police
Expect Toronto road closures this weekend with more than a dozen protests planned: police – Apr 29, 2022

In addition to uniformed officers, Ramer said members from the force’s hate-crime unit will also be deployed to gather any evidence of suspected hate crimes, hate speech or signage. He also added there will be members who can speak and understand different languages, and an increase in cameras.

“While I have every hope that this will be a weekend of peaceful demonstration, I again want to be clear: anyone whose behaviour crosses a line from lawful demonstration to criminality should expect to be arrested,” Ramer said.

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Read more: Police and ‘Rolling Thunder’ convoy face off on 1st night of Ottawa protest

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, preparations have been made in anticipation of hundreds of motorcyclists in the “Rolling Thunder” convoy descending on the city this weekend.

The group has not been clear about the cause they’re rallying for, except to say that they will be in Ottawa to “peacefully celebrate our freedom.”

It’s expected hundreds of motorcyclists will arrive Friday ahead of a gathering Saturday morning. They plan to do a loop around the downtown, with a stop at the National War Memorial and a march to a rally on Parliament Hill.

Ramer said for Toronto, they are not anticipating the same events happening in Ottawa this weekend.

“What we’re anticipating is quite frankly what we see during the weekends in summer months here,” Ramer told reporters.

“This weekend we are going to have about 14 different demonstrations, some smaller some larger.”

Shortly after the press conference by the chief, Toronto mayor John Tory echoed the same comments about exercising the right to protest peacefully.

“While I cannot direct the Toronto Police Service, I fully support the approach outlined by the Chief to ensure this weekend’s demonstrations remain peaceful,” Tory said in a statement.

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“The Police Service’s role will be to maintain peace and order throughout the City while keeping all residents safe. Any police presence this weekend is meant to facilitate those objectives.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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