During a planned trucker protest at Queen’s Park this weekend, police said they will close some routes to “guarantee unimpeded access to hospitals.”
According to a flier circulating on social media, a “Convoy for Freedom” event will take place at Queen’s Park on Saturday at 12 p.m.
While there are few details about the rally, organizers are inviting supporters to gather at one of seven locations around the GTA before heading to the legislature.
In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, police said that they have been speaking with organizers of the demonstration “to limit disruption” and will have a “large” presence in and around the downtown core all weekend.
They also said that they will make it is a “priority” to maintain access to hospitals and will be releasing information about road closures “as soon as possible”
“Anyone who attempts to disrupt hospital or emergency operations will be subject to enforcement,” the statement warns.
While police say that they have “robust plans in place” to maintain safety and order during this weekend’s protest, some officials have expressed concerns about the potential for disruption, including Mayor John Tory.
In a statement issued earlier on Thursday, Tory warned that the city must do “everything” it can to avoid a situation similar to the one in Ottawa, where demonstrators have been parked illegally on roads leading to Parliament Hill since last week and have said that they have no intention of leaving.
There have also been reports that some of the demonstrators in the nation’s capital have engaged in threats and harassment. So far three individuals have been charged criminally and police have issued dozens of tickets for Highway Traffic Act charges. On Wednesday alone eight individuals were ticketed for excessive honking.
“As mayor I of course cannot direct police enforcement, no elected official can or should. But I have made it clear to Chief Ramer that we must work together to do everything we can to avoid the kind of situation currently faced by Ottawa residents and businesses to keep Toronto residents safe and to try to ensure that any protests are respectful and peaceful,” Tory said. “We’ve shown before that we can do this as a city and I’m confident that if there is to be a protest we can do it again.”
Tory’s remarks on Thursday come one day after councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Mike Layton moved a motion at a council meeting asking the city manager to work with Toronto police to develop and communicate an action plan for this weekend’s protest.
Tory did express concern in his statement that the protest could restrict access to nearby hospitals and “drive customers away” from businesses that only recently reopened. For that reason, he said that he does support police taking “necessary action” to prepare “with a focus on doing everything they can to protect the safety of Toronto residents and businesses.”
“Any protest in the Queen’s Park area must not prevent people from receiving emergency or medical care, and hospital employees, who have been frontline heroes throughout the pandemic, must be able to freely and safely arrive and leave from their workplace,” he stated.