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Police officers direct demonstrators as they walk to the Quebec legislature in protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Quebec City on Feb. 5.Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec City is giving more powers to its police force to control traffic and prohibit the consumption of alcohol outdoors ahead of a protest planned for this weekend against COVID-19 public health orders.

Mayor Bruno Marchand said Wednesday that two new municipal regulations were adopted by the city’s executive committee.

One new order gives police the power to control traffic, parking and street closures in the city. The other reinstates a ban on outdoor cooking and consuming alcohol in parks and in public spaces. Marchand said the second order would be revisited this summer.

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He told a news conference Wednesday the new traffic powers permit police to take decisions based on the intentions of protesters.

“They could announce beforehand that they are limiting traffic to certain areas, that they’re closing a street,” Marchand said.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside Quebec City’s legislature during the first weekend in February in a demonstration inspired by the so-called freedom convoy that has gridlocked downtown Ottawa. Quebec City police, however, maintained a heavy presence during the protest in Quebec’s provincial capital, and demonstrators cleared out by Sunday evening.

Marchand said that while there were no major complaints about cooking or drinking during the early February demonstration, the rules were changed to avoid problems.

He did not outline what roads would be closed during the weekend, leaving those decisions to the police.

Quebec City police issued 170 tickets and made three arrests during the first round of protests, with organizers promising to return.

Marchand said he was satisfied with the work of police during the last demonstration and said the changes are designed to give officers the necessary tools to ensure this weekend’s protest runs smoothly.

Organizers have promised the second protest will include entertainment, musical performances and meditation sessions.

Marchand said that a permit is necessary to organize a festival and without one, an event can be deemed illegal. He said he wasn’t aware of any requests for permits ahead of this weekend’s protest.

“We can’t set up stages all over town,” he said. “We cannot create a new festival without having the permits, without also having the necessary support. So the police department will have to judge what is acceptable based on the protest, what is important and what is not possible to do.”

Marchand declined the protest organizers’ invitation to speak with them this weekend.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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