Mayor fed up with truckers’ protest, expects police to enforce laws Winnipeggers have had enough of ’restricted access to public streets, noise and harassment,’ Bowman says
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/02/2022 (231 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Five days into a protest that has choked a main artery downtown and left area residents’ ears ringing, Mayor Brian Bowman said police should be expected to apply the law and bring the demonstration against public-health orders to a close.
On Tuesday, Bowman said people living and working downtown are tired of actions by protesters who have gathered outside the Manitoba Legislative Building in opposition to COVID-19 vaccination requirements and other health measures.
Residents want to see police enforcing traffic, parking and neighbourhood livability laws, Bowman said.
“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,” he told reporters in a virtual media availability. “I want Winnipeggers to know we’re hearing loud and clear from you and what we’re hearing is that Winnipeggers want the laws to be enforced.”
Since Friday, a group of protesters in big-rig cabs, campers, half-tonne trucks and farm tractors have occupied the intersection at Broadway and Memorial Boulevard, blocking traffic, blaring horns and circling the block with signs and flags decrying COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
To date, police have not issued any tickets related to numerous laws and bylaws that have been broken during the demonstration.
Because the protest is considered a public-safety issue, police have taken the lead, and enforcement by city bylaw officers and the parking authority is not occurring, Bowman said.
Under provincial law, elected officials cannot direct the actions of police, but the mayor said he has relayed residents’ concerns and expectations to Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth.
Meantime, Bowman will call a special meeting of council Thursday with the city’s chief administrative officer to hear other options available to address concerns arising from the protest. He has also asked Coun. Markus Chambers, chair of the Winnipeg Police Board, to call a special meeting so councillors can hear directly from Smyth.
Bowman said the protesters’ message has been heard and it is time for the streets to reopen to the public. However he expressed concern the occupation could grow if measures aren’t taken soon to shut it down.
“That’s why I think the dialogue has to happen now and not later,” he said.
Coun. Sherri Rollins, chair of the city’s protection and community services committee, also took the police to task Tuesday after the WPS sent a tweet saying protest organizers “honoured their word” to reopen traffic on York Avenue for commuters.
“The expectation is always that the language is neutral, it’s advisory in nature and it’s about public safety,” Rollins said. “And that tweet went beyond those three criteria.”
The councillor for Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry said there are reasonable limits when it comes to protesting and the people demonstrating do not have a “carte blanche” to do as they please while downtown.
She said the language used by police to describe protesters temporarily removing their barricades on York Avenue was unacceptable, partisan and could dissuade people who have concerns about the protest from raising issues of concern with police.
”Street-level, targeted, racial harassment is being phoned into my office and (does) not seem worthwhile to even report to law enforcement” – Coun. Sherri Rollins
“Street-level, targeted, racial harassment is being phoned into my office and (does) not seem worthwhile to even report to law enforcement,” she said. “That’s why it’s really important to interrogate the communications, make sure that the police are doing better.”
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the WPS said its response to protests, including the one outside the Legislative Building, may cause concern for citizens and community leaders who have a “lack of understanding of police operations.”
However, police said they are speaking with organizers on “points of friction,” including noise, while suggesting ticketing may occur after the event and that enforcement is not always apparent to the public.
“The WPS has a full-time presence in the area to ensure public safety for all,” the statement said. “We continue to work with organizers to ensure a balance between their objectives and the safety, security, and wellbeing of others in the downtown.
“At this time, the WPS is confident that it has the resources and relationships to manage this event safely.”
Meanwhile, organizers of the self-styled “Freedom Convoy Winnipeg” released a list of five demands and sent an unsigned letter to Premier Heather Stefanson calling for an immediate meeting.
Organizers called for the province to release a plan with dates to end COVID-19 restrictions, reinstate employees placed on leave under provincial public-health orders and conduct a review of the Emergency Measures Act and Public Health Act.
The group also wants to see the province advocate against federal public-health measures and “return to democratic dialogue.”
“Together, as Manitobans we can move forward in a manner that brings a peaceful conclusion to this movement and provides an actionable timeline that removes the COVID-19 mandates,” the letter said.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.