Police restrict access to Ottawa's core as occupation nears 4th weekend
'Only people with lawful reasons' to be there can enter, says interim police chief
The latest on Day 21 of the protest:
- Coun. Eli El-Chantiry is the new police services board chair.
- Matt Torigian withdraws services after being offered interim job as Ottawa police chief.
- More Ottawa residents and businesses join a lawsuit against protesters.
- Quebec provincial police have been deployed to Ottawa.
Ottawa's interim police chief says officers are working to keep more protesters from getting close to Parliament Hill as they try to end the occupation of downtown streets.
Steve Bell told the Ottawa Police Services Board early Thursday afternoon a major increase of police officers will be seen throughout the core.
"Only those with lawful reason to enter the core, such as residents, businesses and others with lawful reasons, will be allowed in the area," Ottawa police tweeted around the same time as his remarks.
"The unlawful protesters must leave the area and will not be provided access."
Fences were being set up that morning in front of government buildings including Parliament Hill and the Senate. Police vehicles were seen gathering at the EY Centre near the international airport to the south.
The response now includes an unspecified number of Quebec provincial police. According to Radio-Canada sources, members of the Sûreté du Québec's tactical intervention squad will work under the command of the OPP.
The city's bylaw department also explained what would happen with animals if "enforcement actions" separate people from their pets.
Alongside any criminal repercussions, the class-action lawsuit launched by Ottawa residents against protesters in the city's downtown now includes an expanded area that loops in those living in the Sandy Hill and ByWard Market areas.
- More Ottawa residents, businesses join lawsuit against protesters
- Banks have started to freeze accounts linked to the protests, Freeland says
These latest warnings — posted online and handed out as flyers — gave protesters an updated list of rules that may apply to the occupation of some downtown streets and potential penalties under expanded federal and provincial powers.
Speaking to city council on Wednesday, interim police Chief Steve Bell said police now have the resources and a plan to safely end the protest.
He would not share a timeline for that plan for operational reasons, but said police are prepared for several levels of "lawful" escalation, including "techniques [that] are not what we're used to seeing Ottawa."
After the first of the two warnings, which directly told protesters that what they were doing no longer fell under a peaceful protest, spokespeople for the organizers said they needed more people to come to the core so police would be outnumbered.
Wednesday also brought comments from federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino that several of the individuals involved in the blockade at the border crossing in Coutts, Alta., have "strong ties to a far-right extreme organization with leaders who are in Ottawa."
Meanwhile, Ottawa's English public school board says police have informed its officials that schools are safe and will be ready to act if that changes.
We are aware of increased police presence downtown. We have reached out to Ottawa Police who have confirmed schools are safe. We will maintain contact with police through the day. In the event of any changes to the current situation, we will activate our safe schools procedures.—@OCDSB
The University of Ottawa has moved in-person classes online until Monday and is again increasing security on campus because of "ongoing developments near Parliament Hill," it said on its website early Wednesday evening.
Northern parts of the campus border some of the roads closed by the protest and the city maintains that people should avoid non-essential travel downtown.
More leadership changes
Following Tuesday's resignation of police chief Peter Sloly, there were more leadership changes when Ottawa city council voted to overhaul its police services board Wednesday during a long and unusually emotional meeting.
It included the ouster of chair Coun. Diane Deans and the resignation of some board members in protest.
The police services board voted Thursday to appoint veteran Coun. Eli El-Chantiry as its new chair. El-Chantiry also spent a dozen years as the chair of the police board until 2018.
WATCH | A timeline of key events in Ottawa's convoy crisis: