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Ottawa Police Call for Reinforcements for ‘Freedom’ Protests on Canada Day

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OTTAWA – Ottawa officials said Monday they would close roads and call in reinforcements to prevent anti-government “liberty” protesters from disrupting Canada Day festivities, which will be held Friday for the first time in three years.

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the free concerts and other activities usually held on the July 1 National Day, which celebrates the founding of the country, have been cancelled.

This year, several groups who say they are protesting various things — including coronavirus vaccination mandates, globalization and government efforts to limit freedom in Canada — are planning marches and even a dance.

Some of the same organizers were behind a truck convoy that blocked downtown Ottawa around parliament for three weeks, hampering international travel and trade and leading to dozens of arrests. Ottawa officials continue to be criticized for their handling of the crisis.

Ottawa’s interim police chief Steve Bell said he expects hundreds of thousands of people to take part in the celebrations in Ottawa, but he doesn’t know how many people plan to join the protests.

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“We will not be intimidated by any group that plans to disrupt the celebrations,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said at a news conference. “We are prepared and we will not tolerate any illegal activity by anyone.”

Friday’s protests include an alternative free concert in front of the Supreme Court, a march to City Hall where speakers will address the public and finally a dance party in front of parliament.

Multiple police forces, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), are being called in to help, Bell told reporters.

As of Wednesday, access to the streets around the parliament has been restricted and most streets in the inner city are closed on Fridays. No vehicles will be allowed to park illegally and no structures, including tents, will be allowed, Bell said.

“We are prepared to take decisive and lawful action to address threats, occupation attempts and other illegal behavior we observe,” Bell said.

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