Interim Chief Bell’s Statement to City Council concerning the Rolling Thunder event planned this weekend

Ottawa, Ontario – Good morning Mayor and Council, We are here to brief you on the operational plan we have in place to address the Rolling Thunder event. I am here today with Deputy Chief Paul Burnett. I want to begin by addressing the community. We have heard your concerns. We know that you are still healing from the disruption and criminality the unlawful protest brought to our streets. This is a proud and vibrant part of the city. We understand that this had an impact on all residents and a pronounced impact on many in our marginalized communities. Your police service will not allow for unsafe or unlawful conditions that could lead to another unlawful protest. In the past weeks we have been speaking with businesses, residents, local councillors and community leaders. We have heard the concerns about access to residential neighbourhoods, noise, improper driving, parking, acts of hate or intolerance and criminality. That input has been a major factor in the planning for this and other operations.

Lawful Protest

The right to lawful and peaceful demonstrations will always be protected by our Service. We do so almost every day in the capital with protests, demonstrations and rallies on any number of issues. We have examined all of our legal authorities. We have no ability to prevent any individuals from coming to the capital to voice their concerns to government or hold events to support their cause. This is a right enshrined in the Charter. Along with rights, there are responsibilities every individual has. And it is the responsibility of police to uphold the law and preserve the peace. I want to be as open as possible in our communications so that everyone understands what they can expect.

Rolling Thunder
Rolling Thunder / YouTube

Overview of Event

The individuals associated with this event are expected to arrive on Friday with many of the main activities occurring on Saturday. It is too early to provide information on expected numbers but we know that organizers have said they expect more than 500 motorcycles. We expect that many of these individuals will be staying in downtown hotels. We are also aware of a site in the rural area of Eagleson Road where some Rolling Thunder participants are gathering this weekend. This area will see increased police presence and possible traffic delays. We are also aware of a church in the Vanier area known to be frequented by these groups. They may host an event. We do not yet know how many other people may attend in other types of vehicles or on foot. There are some events, including a church service, scheduled for Sunday. At that point, they have said they will depart the city following their events.

Police and City Response

The joint position of City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Police is that no motor vehicle-based protests, rallies or events will be allowed in designated downtown areas. This includes areas near and around Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial and applies to all demonstrations, rallies and events. Organizers have been advised of this.

Enhanced Operational Plan

The focus of our plan will be on public safety, maintaining the right to protest and enforcing all applicable laws. The plan draws on extra police resources and is designed to meet the issues we may face. We have already begun to put that plan in place. Residents will see a large police and presence including bylaw and parking enforcement officers. There will be a significant increase in officers from the OPP, RCMP and other municipal police services to execute the plan.

Controlled intersections, new no parking and no stopping areas, road closures, vehicle towing and ticketing will be part of the enforcement strategy to support public safety.A motor-vehicle based event exclusion zone in the downtown area has been established. No motor vehicles involved in any event (rally, protest, demonstration) are permitted inside this zone. However, the roads are not closed. Residential and business traffic, as well as pedestrians, cyclists and public transit are permitted. There will be heavy City trucks, physical barriers such as fencing and police officers to control and restrict access to certain areas to maintain public safety. We have developed multiple contingencies including traffic officers and quick response teams that will be ready to provide an immediate police response to issues throughout the city. The event organizers plan to hold a ride on Saturday afternoon. It will enter a portion of city and depart using the Nicholas on ramp to Highway 417. There will be a heavy police presence monitoring this ride, backed up by tow trucks and physical barriers.

Public Safety

I want to be clear with both organizers and participants. You will be held accountable for your actions before, during, and after events. We continue to monitor online and open source commentary related to all events. Threatening or intimidating behaviours will be addressed with all appropriate enforcement action. Investigative teams, including our Hate Crime Unit, are in place, focused on gathering evidence and laying charges where appropriate. The displaying of symbols of hate like swastikas will result in charges. The targeting of any community events will result in a police and enforcement response.

Communication with Organizers

As we do with every event, we have reached out to Rolling Thunder organizers to ensure we understand their plans. We do this for every event, from football games to concerts to rallies to protests. This is never meant to support any specific cause but to ensure there are clear lines of communication and that public safety issues are addressed. We are also reaching out to individuals and groups who plan to attend to express their opposition to this event to understand their plans. We continue to finalize our plans to ensure this event is peaceful, lawful, and orderly. I will continue to update our Board, Council and the public in the days ahead. Finally, we have heard the community and take seriously the concerns raised. You will see that in our planning. It’s also important we set context and expectations. We see a lot of conflict online over this event. Much of it from people and groups behind keyboards far away who want to drive discord. I absolutely do not want to see that conflict on our streets. This is an open and peaceful city. Given the size of our jurisdiction, you will see people on motorcycles and individuals in the downtown core who have absolutely nothing to do with this event. We all need to be respectful of one another. It is my goal that the operation we have in place will reassure our residents and businesses and allow you to enjoy our community.

Ottawa Police Service

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