With more ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests anticipated in Victoria, police “controlled access points” into the James Bay and BC Legislature areas return to fully staffed this weekend, according to VicPD.
On March 19th, VicPD announced it would be blocking off the area to vehicles involved in the convoy, with local traffic still allowed through, including people accessing businesses or services.
While access points were an unexpected move, the increased police response keeps people safe and facilitates a peaceful and lawful protest environment, the detachment says.
“Eight weeks of continuous disruptions involving vehicles, ‘slow-roll’ blockades and the use of horns, including modified air train and ship horns, has had a significant and unlawful impact on residents and businesses in James Bay and the BC Legislature area,” read a police statement.
We're scaling back up Saturday to ensure we're able to continue to keep people safe & facilitate an environment for safe, peaceful & lawful protest. Access on foot, by bike, taxi & transit are not restricted in anyway & those wishing to gather to protest are welcome to do so. pic.twitter.com/clBCh66BUj
— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) March 31, 2022
However, protesters can still gather and protest out front of BC’s Legislature, crossing access points by foot, bicycle, taxi or BC Transit.
“There have been two weekend events with several hundred in attendance, which included significant marches through downtown streets, as well as small, daily protest gatherings,” recalled VicPD.
Though these access points have appeared effective, turning away around 150 protest-related vehicles in the first weekend alone—at least one managed to nearly cruise through.
A March 19th tweet by one Victoria resident showed a photo of what appeared to be one of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters, with their Canadian-flag-bearing truck stuck in a muddy grass area of Beacon Hill Park.
Subsequently, the driver was fined as their truck was towed and license plates were seized, VicPD spokesperson Bowen Osoko told Victoria Buzz.
Over the last few days, “fewer and fewer vehicles” have attempted to access the area, prompting officers handling access points to move to a “relaxed posture,” VicPD says.
Last month, VicPD Chief Del Manak was hopeful the convoy’s momentum would dissipate “given the latest revision and changes to the provincial health orders that have been relaxed.”
On March 11th, BC health officials repealed many remaining mandates, including the face mask requirement. By April 8th, the BC Vaccine Card requirement is also set to come to an end.
Victoria police say dangerous and unsafe activity will continue to be met with de-escalation and enforcement during protests, noting temporary CCTV cameras will remain in the BC Legislature area until protests subside.
“We also continue to communicate with protest organizers with the goal of minimizing disruption to the public while facilitating their right to safe, peaceful and lawful protest,” added VicPD.