Mayor Brian Bowman appeared frustrated Tuesday with a trucker protest against COVID-19 restrictions in its fifth day outside the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg.
Bowman said while he and other politicians cannot direct police actions, he wants the protest brought to an end soon.
“There are elements of this protest that continue to be unlawful while disrupting the lives of the general public, including restricted access to public streets, noise and harassment,” Bowman said.
“What we’re hearing is that Winnipeggers want the law to be enforced.”
Bowman said he would ask for a special city council meeting to be held Thursday, which would allow councillors to air their thoughts and give the city’s chief administrative officer a chance to update council and the public.
More than a dozen large vehicles remained parked outside the main entrance to the legislature grounds. Workers in the building had earlier been told to work from home if possible this week because of the protest.
The protest has involved loud horn blasts, prompting complaints from area residents, and has sealed off a couple of street blocks.
Winnipeg police posted a social media message Tuesday that said the protesters had agreed to open one of the blocks to allow for more traffic flow in the morning rush hour. The post, on Twitter, used the term “Freedom Convoy” — a title used by the protesters — and said they had “honoured their word”.
The tweet was criticized by city Coun. Sherri Rollins, who called it “unacceptable and politically partisan”. Bowman called it a poor choice of words and unfortunate.
In a lengthy prepared statement, the Winnipeg Police Service defended its handling of the protest with wording that fired back at critics.
“The W.P.S. recognizes that these types of operations that balance public safety objectives with public expectations leave many citizens and, in some cases, community leaders with concerns stemming from a lack of understanding of police operations,” the statement read.
“The WPS has a full-time presence in the area to ensure public safety for all. We continue to work with organizers to ensure a balance between their objectives and the safety, security, and well-being of others in the downtown.”
The police service also hinted at future enforcement measures.
“Police consider several factors when taking enforcement action, including the impact on the event participants’ behaviour and the outcomes which may result.
“In some instances, enforcement action is taken at the time, and sometimes it occurs at a later time. Enforcement action is not always apparent to the general public.”
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