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Winnipeg police make plea to protest organizers amid Israel-Hamas war

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Winnipeg Police are making a public plea to organizers of rallies and protests connected to the Israel-Hamas war.

"It’s put a fair bit of impact on our frontline resources in addition to everything else that they're doing," said Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth.

The war has sparked rallies and protests in Winnipeg. At the police board meeting Friday, the brass reported those gatherings are taxing the service.

Supt. Dave Dalal told the board between Oct. 9 and Dec. 5, there were 37 events and police had to attend or monitor 25 of them. He says that required 2,288 officer hours and $136,000 in overtime.

Dalal said the service is having to shift officers from priorities like foot patrols in downtown, as well as from other neighbourhoods. He said the pace is hectic.

"Folks are getting pulled in a million different directions and they don't know what they're getting into every day," said Dalal.

Police Board Chair Coun. Markus Chambers also commented on the strain.

"That's having a catastrophic effect on police resources and general security in our city,” he said.

In late October, police asked people to stop holding counter protests. Now police are also calling on organizers to stay in one place, as counter protests and mobile rallies require more time, more officers, more streets blocked off, and pose more risks to public safety.

"This is a tough time for us and I'm going to use this opportunity as a public board meeting to ask organizers in the community again," said Dalal.

But a member of the police board is uncomfortable with that request. Community activist Kyle Mason said people should be allowed to protest how they see fit.

"It does not sit well with me, you know a police service or elected officials would ask people not to do something they're entitled to do,” said Mason.

Dalal said they’re simply trying to keep already volatile situations from escalating and save resources.

"If we can influence folks to express themselves in a way that doesn't impact community safety then I think it's our responsibility to do so,” he said. 

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