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Winnipeg police face questions about handling of convoy protest

Hundreds of police officers and around-the-clock surveillance were needed to manage the convoy protest in Winnipeg where streets were blocked and horns blared.

Police Chief Danny Smyth and his team faced questions Friday in front of the police board about how the service handled the three-week occupation.

They offered new details about their strategy, choosing negotiations over force.

“Before you go in to engage someone, you better know what the end game can be,” said Smyth. Police said 166 units were used, 2,800 police hours, and 239 different officers.

This resulted in 156 hours of overtime at a cost of $106,000 to manage the protest 24/7.

The service said it started negotiations with organizers before the trucks rolled in, to keep the convoy footprint to a minimum and non-violent. It said ongoing talks helped reduce noise over time, and kept streets open for emergency vehicles and snow clearing. The service says after negotiations hit an impasse, protesters were given a timeline to clear out, and they did so peacefully.

“There were no assaults, no threats reported, no property damage reported and no officers injured,” said Supt. Dave Dalal.

There were 168 noise complaints made to police during the occupation.

On top of the noise, some community members say they were harassed and threatened by some of the protesters.

“We want the police to be held accountable for their failure to protect the peace of law-abiding citizens,” said Abdikheir Ahmed from the Police Accountability Coalition.

They say the police did not do enough, soon enough, accusing them of catering to the occupiers, instead of cracking down on their illegal rally.

“The protesters left feeling emboldened and that they had done nothing wrong,” said Kate Kehler from the Social Planning Council. Omar Kinnarath from the group Defend Winnipeg says police should have enforced the law.

“All police needed to do was tell them that they were going to get ticketed and that they were going to get fined,” said Kinnarath. But police say even issuing a single ticket, off the hop, could have caused things to escalate in an instant.

“It might seem simple to go give a ticket but it would cause a large enough police operation that we need to be prepared for the full weight of the service to go clear who’s ever on site,” said Dalal.

Smyth says the service will do a review of the protest strategy to see what lessons the service could learn. He says consideration will also be given to a public forum. Top Stories

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