The Victoria Downtown Residents Association has expressed “strong concern” over an anti-mandate protest convoy planned for the capital, as most of B.C.’s pandemic measures are set to end.
“We are also very concerned about statements made by the alleged convoy organizer threatening to occupy our lovely city for an extended period of time,” the association said in a letter to council Thursday.
That refers to comments by James Bauder, the founder of Canada Unity, who said in a Facebook video that he’s planning a convoy aiming to descend upon Victoria this month.
“B.C. is going to be a really big event. We’re looking at two, three, four months, however long it takes,” he said last week.
Canada Unity was one organizer of the weeks-long occupation in the heart of Ottawa. Given recent events in the nation’s capital, the Downtown Residents Association called for the protection of people, infrastructure, the environment and the local economy in B.C.’s capital.
The group called on city council, the province, Victoria police and others “to prepare to the greatest extent possible and ensure that an unlawful occupation of our streets does not occur.”
The residents association recognized the right to peaceful protest, but said residents have a right to enjoy their city and shouldn’t be subjected to “the incessant noise that has been characteristic of past convoy protests.” In his video, Bauder claimed the Victoria protest won’t include blockades similar to the ones in Ottawa.
During Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting, VicPD Chief Const. Del Manak said the department is aware of Bauder’s call for a Victoria protest. Officers have been writing tickets and engaging in dialogue with protesters over the last months, he said.
“Particularly for the ‘freedom’ convoy, it’s been extremely disruptive for the residents, with the excessive honking and the frequency of honking.”
Manak said police lack the resources to issue tickets for every infraction, but said council has given them more tools to ticket excessive noisemakers. Police and the city have taken steps to prevent any “entrenchment or occupation” of vehicles near the legislature, he added.
In a video released later on Thursday, Manak said VicPD has heard concerns about the possible protests and “any dangerous acts or and unlawful activity will be met with de-escalation and enforcement.”
Black Press Media has reached out to Canada Unity to ask whether B.C. announcing end dates for mask-wearing and vaccine passport requirements will impact the group’s plan to protest in Victoria.