Toronto police prepare for 14 protests and rallies this weekend

Toronto Police Forces are bolstering their visible presence over the city this weekend ahead of more than a dozen large-scale demonstrations set to take place downtown on Saturday and Sunday.

At a news conference Friday morning, Police Chief James Ramer said about 14 different rallies are expected this weekend, some small and some large. The goal is to maintain a lawful and peaceful presence, Ramer said, while ensuring nothing gets out of line.

“The Toronto Police Department always strives to ensure public safety while minimizing disruption to the city, its businesses and residents as protesters peacefully exercise their right to free speech,” Ramer said.

“While the Toronto Police Department will always support peaceful demonstrations, I want to be very clear that we will not tolerate harassment, intimidation or hate-motivated behavior that targets specific communities.”

He noted that there has been an increase in hate-motivated incidents in the city, and that police are committed to investigating each of these incidents, which are “unfortunately becoming common”. The Toronto Police Department will present its annual report on hate crimes to the board next week.

Police have warned that the expected demonstrations could lead to traffic delays and possibly some road closures to ensure public safety. Police will implement both rolling and static road closures and direct people and traffic through the demonstrations.

Chief Ramer said that in addition to the police officers on duty, the police will also deploy agents from her hate crime unit, as well as agents who speak multiple languages ​​to ensure they can hear and read all messages distributed during the protests. Police also plan to install more security cameras around the demonstration areas, to support any investigations needed after the events, he added.

“What we will not tolerate is civil disobedience, violence or hateful behavior that crosses the line into crime,” Ramer said, warning anyone acting unlawfully at these gatherings to “expect to be arrested.”

Meanwhile, the country’s capital is also preparing for crowds this weekend. More than 800 RCMP officers have been approved to join the Ottawa Police Department ahead of the planned “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle convoy slated to arrive in the city.

Earlier this year, Ottawa was the epicenter of mass protests as truck drivers and their supporters marched from across the country and occupied part of the city for several weeks. The demonstrations ended when the police came in and arrested some of the organizers.

For several days in February, there was a heavy police presence in parts of downtown Toronto as supporters of the Ottawa convoy gathered, in opposition to masks and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Chief Ramer said there is no indication that the weekend demonstrations could be anything as significant as the one in February. Instead, the police are taking precautions as the summer months approach and larger gatherings are expected.

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