Saskatoon

Premier's dinner protest took Saskatoon police by surprise: chief

Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill says officers were caught off guard by protesters swarming cars at the premier’s dinner that took place last week.

Police 'underestimated the volatility' of protesters at dinner where Brad Wall was speaking

People converge on Ruth Street last Thursday to stage a protest outside the premier's dinner at Prairieland Park. Crowds eventually surrounded cars attempting to access the event. (Marc-Antoine Belanger/CBC Radio Canada)

Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill says officers were caught off guard by protesters swarming cars at the premier's dinner that took place last week.

Last Thursday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside of the Premier's dinner event at Prairieland Park. People swarmed cars, showing their opposition to cuts outlined in this year's provincial budget.

Weighill says police were expecting a small protest and had assigned eight officers to the event for crowd control.

"It was a dinner," he said. "It wasn't a political rally."

Clive Weighill, chief of the Saskatoon Police Service, says 'we underestimated the volatility of the crowd' protesting at the premier's dinner last week. (CBC)

He characterized the typical Saskatoon protest as peaceful, though vocal.

"We didn't expect what we were going to see and unfortunately we underestimated the volatility of the crowd," he said.

He compared the protesters' blocking of vehicles to behaviour seen during labour disputes when companies try to move workers through a picket line.

The eight officers proved insufficient to cover all four entrances, Weighill said.

Had police expected that kind of protest behaviour, they would have shut down three of the four access points and concentrated the officers at one entrance, he said.

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Police will meet Friday for a full debrief, he said.

"Due to the political climate right now, we'll probably have to change the ways we protect VIPs at certain events now," he said.

In the meantime, officers will continue to investigate complaints — filed by both dinner attendees and protesters.

With files from Victoria Dinh