Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Rolling Thunder this weekend

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Like most residents, I’m disturbed by the planned return in a significant way of reactionary protesters to our city this weekend. We know that a group of purported veterans on motorcycles intend to try to ride through the downtown core with at least some planning to access the Cenotaph on foot to lay a wreath. There are plans by some of the protesters to demonstrate on the Hill with a rally to assert their ill-defined agenda. Many of those involved were also involved with the occupation and we know the hateful, often harassing speech and displays that ensued from that occupation.

The City, in response, intends to shut many of the streets in the downtown core including parts of the Market to motor vehicles except for local traffic and transit (see inset). There will be a restricted route for any parading motorcycles that keeps those out of the residential neighbourhoods, and they will be heavily supervised by police. We are awaiting the plan for eliminating street parking in swaths of the downtown. Read the latest on the City's plans here.

I’ll state today that I don’t foresee a re-occupation using vehicles of any part of the City. I believe Police and the City when they assert that they will be heavily enforcing traffic, noise and parking and other by-laws, and we know that police reinforcements from other jurisdictions will bolster available OPS personnel. These protesters are not welcome in Ottawa.

The biggest concern I think everyone in a position of authority shares is that hundreds of people with a hateful message and intention to disrupt our normal civic life will be in town for the weekend. Anyone can travel on a street that has not been closed; anyone can park in a parking spot that has not been closed. I have been in constant touch with Councillor McKenney and I agree with them that the vehicle exclusion zone must be broadened, and parking restrictions implemented far and wide. The constant insistence we have is that there must be a security presence in the areas adjacent to the vehicle exclusion zone to prevent protesters from harassing residents and businesses. It’s unacceptable to me that anyone would feel unsafe to shop, visit friends, go to work or grab a drink in their neighbourhood.

This morning at Council I was heartened to hear the reply to my question on the plan for transit. Many of us regularly use the LRT for work and leisure. OC Transpo is preparing for the protesters with more personnel and a clear willingness to request help where needed from police.

With respect to our ward, I’m concerned that Bayview and Tunney’s Pasture stations provide easy access to downtown via LRT with ample parking nearby. My message to the City will be that by-laws must be enforced vigorously. I’m loathe to ask that Mechanicsville, Champlain Park, Hintonburg and Wellington Village become large no-parking zones – but I won’t rule it out as an ask. I know residents and businesses depend on that. By-law enforcement would also include people just going about their normal activities. But I also do not want to facilitate in any way the participation of protesters who have shown themselves in the last occupation to be so hateful.

I wish I could guarantee that protesters in violation of time limits or other parking restrictions in our ward will be immediately ticketed and towed. By-law officers will naturally be focused on areas closer to the Hill and Cenotaph. But, as I was during the occupation I’ll be monitoring my email and texts for your reports of what you’re seeing in Kitchissippi. Between you and I, and the police and City liaison teams, we were able to respond to a lot (not all) of what transpired in our ward during the occupation. My invitation is for you to participate with me again in ensuring the our ward remains safe and free of harassment.

Please note that while I am a member of Ottawa's Police Services Board, my comments here are in my capacity as your city councillor.

Posted April 27, 2022