Convoy protesters were expected to leave Ottawa in week 1, city says

A new memo from the City of Ottawa sheds light on the early days of the truck convoy protest and when officials believed participants in the disruptive occupation would leave the city.

The so-called Freedom Convoy, which occupied large swaths of downtown Ottawa for weeks, was dispersed by police from multiple agencies on February 19, after protesters ignored numerous orders to leave.

Three days earlier, Ottawa’s Rideau-Vanier ward councilor Mathieu Fleury peppered the city with questions about his response to that date.

Among other things, Fleury asked what caused the city to wait until February 6 to declare its state of emergency rather than the week before, when protesters remained downtown after their first weekend of honking and shouting. street blocking.

Mathieu Fleury is a municipal councilor for the Rideau-Vanier ward of Ottawa. (Simon Lasalle/CBC)

The city’s March 18 response to Fleury’s investigation was posted online earlier this week.

Among its new information, on January 30, the National Capital Region Command Center (NCRCC) – which brought together municipal, state and federal information-sharing efforts – expected protesters to leave the city ​​”no later than” February 2.

By the end of the second weekend of the protest on February 6, however, it was clear that the protesters had sunk in, according to the response.

Here’s how the city’s revelations fit into a timeline of previously released details about the early days of the occupation.

January 28-30: Crowds reached as many as 18,000 on Saturday, then dropped to 3,000 on Sunday, according to the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), which led efforts to quell the protest.

The city’s police department and emergency operations center had representatives at the NCRCC, according to the response to Fleury.

“[The NCRCC] expected protesters to leave town by February 2. The city’s understanding was that this was information shared by protest organizers with police liaison teams,” the response read.

“On January 30, therefore, the city had no idea that the protests would turn into a prolonged occupation.”

Vehicles including a bus and trucks line up on Queen Elizabeth Parkway on January 30. (Guy Quenneville/Radio-Canada)

February 1st : Police said 250 protesters remained at the scene but did not offer a vehicle count for the remaining convoy.

February 2: In a press release, convoy organizer Chris Barber said protesters – who were seeking an audience with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over their opposition to COVID-19 mandates – planned to “stay in Ottawa as long as it takes.”

The SPO said the figures suggested by the intelligence are expected to increase over the coming second weekend.

A crowd gathers on Wellington Street on February 2. (Guy Quenneville/Radio-Canada)

February 4: Acting Police Chief Steve Bell, then deputy chief, said hundreds of trucks, up to 2,000 more protesters and up to 1,000 more counter-protesters could arrive on the weekend of 4-6 February.

The numbers were likely to drop on Feb. 7, as they did after the first weekend, Bell said.

Police did not expect large numbers of trucks in residential areas, Bell added, and would have done more to ward them off if they had.

Children play hockey on Wellington Street on February 4. (Guy Quenneville/Radio-Canada)

February 5: Chief Constable Peter Sloly, who later resigned over concerns over the handling of the protest, said his forces did not have enough resources to end what would turn into an occupation.

Bell said intelligence from security partners across the country when the convoys first left suggested they would stay short and leave.

February 6: Ten days into the protest, it was “clear that the situation had taken root,” according to the city’s response to Fleury.

“Ottawa was facing city-wide impacts related to resident safety, critical infrastructure, businesses, essential worker access,” the response reads.

The OPS said it would step up law enforcement against protesters, including blocking fuel supplies to trucks, while Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency.

“It was also apparent that the Ottawa Police Service was outnumbered and unable to implement the type of law enforcement operation needed to safely remove the protesters without outside assistance,” according to the city ​​response.

READ HERE | The city’s response to the council. Fleury