Ontario Provincial Police are not exactly thrilled with one of its officers after he was caught on TikTok offering his support to a trucker involved in the Freedom Convoy protests.
Update Tuesday February 15, 2022 2:00 p.m. EST - Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly resigned today. The New York Times reported today that the emergency powers granted by Canada’s prime minister include compelling tow companies to work with law enforcement to remove rigs and the seizing of any vehicles involves in blockades.
The video was uploaded by TikTok user bamybear. In it, an officer is heard telling the protesters “I get what you guys are doing. I support you guys 100 percent.” The video includes a graphic that reads “Proud Canadian.”
The name of the officer and the location of the stop are not currently known to press, according to CTVNews. The OPP is investigating the matter:
The video put the OPP in the awkward position of stating that this officer’s feelings on the protest are not in line with the department’s. Considering the unlawful nature of the protesters, I should hope not. Ottawa police had to establish a special hotline just to deal with all the reports of hate-related crimes going on since protesters shut the city down on Jan. 28. Multiple protesters have been arrested, ticketed or are under investigation. And while there hasn’t been massive violence in Ottawa, a border blockage associated with the Freedom Convoy protest at a Montana-Alberta crossing is currently ending after guns and body armor were found on protesters. The threat of mass violence is there.
Ottawa residents are intensely critical of the police’s handling of the siege, now well into its third week. The New York Times reports that Ottawa police were just outsmarted by organized well-funded right-wingers. Police also suspect that former officers are helping the protesters:
The answers will surface in a post-mortem, but initially, analysts link the police officers’ hands-off approach to two opposing factors: the weaknesses of the local police force in size and preparation, and the relative strength of the occupiers — in numbers, but also in tactics, discipline, fund-raising ability and logistics.
While the trucks themselves are the purported cause, symbol and tool of the protest, only a few of the self-proclaimed leaders are actually truckers. Some are, in fact, former police officers and army veterans who many believe have used their expertise to help organize the occupation.
“This is an entirely sophisticated level of demonstrators,” Ottawa’s police chief, Peter Sloly, said in a news conference on Thursday. “They have the capability to run a strong organization here, provincially and nationally, and we’re seeing that play out in real time.”
But why former? Protesters seemed to get a lot of help in the early days of the siege as Ottawa police initially seemed hell bent on not arresting or ticketing the protesters. In the first 12 days of the protest, for instance, police only made 23 arrests. And a week into the protest, Ottawa Bylaws wrote 2,164 parking tickets for residents, with only 115 being for vehicles in the protest zone, CTVNews reports. It was only after major pushback from angry residents that tickets began to be issued in the protest zone. City councilors were initially told by Ottawa police the protest would be loud, but brief and declined to keep trucks out of the downtown area. Now that the trucks are there, they have proven very difficult to move.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the unprecedented step Monday night of invoking the Emergencies Act, allowing the PM to freeze the bank accounts of protesters without a court order. Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters Tuesday morning Ottawa police should now be able to mop up the protest, though Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said last week he’d need an additional 1,800 officer to clear city streets of the protest. From the Ottawa Citizen:
Ford said police forces now have every tool they need to manage the protests, “and I have confidence they will do that. And it’s critical that we do, because the eyes of the world are on us right now.”
Ford said the protests, which included a blockade of an international bridge at Windsor, put trade and jobs at risk. A million people in Ottawa have had their lives disrupted and have “been held hostage,” said Ford.
Ford said he understands people are frustrated with public health measures, but he’s followed the advice from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore.
The irony is that protesters are seeking freedom, but they are hurting more people than the pandemic could ever hurt, Ford said, noting the thousands of jobs put at risk.
Protests along border crossings have put a dent in Canada’s fragile economic recovery from COVID-19 lockdowns. The week-long closure of the Ambassador Bridge alone cost the economy some $500 million a day in trade and led to auto plants either slowing production or stopping it altogether. While that blockage is over, a new one has sprung up between Vancouver and Washington at a border crossing along the Pacific Highway.