Ottawa police made several arrests Friday night as the city braces for Saturday’s “Rolling Thunder” demonstration.
The arrests took place after a small convoy attempted to make its way to Parliament Hill, police said.
In a press release late Friday night, Ottawa police confirmed seven people were arrested during protests in the downtown core. Police said “various charges” were laid, including assaulting police.
In total, 24 vehicles were towed in downtown Ottawa Friday night.
“There have been no reported injuries, and police remain in full control of city streets,” Ottawa police said.
Many of the participants were also part of the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration that seized the capital for weeks in February in protest of vaccine mandates, COVID-19 restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The protest started relatively calmly on Parliament Hill Friday but as night fell a few hours later, a line of big-rigs, campers and other trucks made their way into the core.
Protesters gathered around the trucks, and police in tactical gear formed a line and faced them down.
Ottawa police spent much of the week preparing for the “Rolling Thunder” protest to arrive in the city. The force banned vehicles from the downtown core and increased the number of officers it planned to have patrol the streets.
“We are a tired city,” Interim Chief of Police Steve Bell said Monday. “We’ve had too much of this type of activity in and around and through our streets, particularly in the downtown core.”
He said that some of those who plan to come to Ottawa over the weekend have “identified the need to attend the war monument and re-consecrate it by laying a wreath and undo the damage that they feel may have been done to it during the convoy and the removal of that illegal occupation.”
He said it had been “extremely challenging” to identify a single reason for the protest.
“As groups have attended our city and other cities, there seems to not be one central focus or singular objective to them,” Bell said. “There are many different groups that come and congregate at the same time.”
Ottawa police also approved appointments for more than 800 Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers to assist with enforcement over the weekend.
Speaking to guest host David Akin on this week’s West Block, Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Public Safety, told Global News that lessons from February’s so-called “Freedom Convoy” had been “taken into account” when preparations were made for the protest.
“We certainly want to provide tools and resources to law enforcement if they need it — but we trust law enforcement to do the job,” he said.
In the news release, Ottawa police said that “several attempts” were made to occupy areas of Ottawa Friday night.
“Public Order Units were deployed to the Rideau/Sussex area Friday evening to disperse an aggressive and combative crowd,” police said.
As of 7 a.m. Saturday, city by-law officers had issued 417 tickets and towed 30 vehicles in connection with the rally.
OC Transpo, the city’s public transit agency, tweeted Saturday it was increasing its on-the-ground presence to support customers and “ensure the safety of our front-line staff.” On Friday night, the agency tweeted the Rideau Centre, a three-level shopping mall in the heart of downtown, was closed because of the rally.
— With files from The Canadian Press