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Enough is enough, Overbrook says of convoy encampment in stadium lot


More than a week ago, the Ottawa Police Service redirected protesters from a besieged downtown overloaded with trucks to the Coventry Road stadium lot.

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The city councillor and community association for Overbrook say the “Freedom Convoy” encampment in the parking lot of RCGT Park can’t leave soon enough.

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“I’m looking forward to the city doing what it has to do to get them to go home,” says Marjolaine Provost, a spokesperson for the Overbrook Community Association. “I’m curious why the hell the city isn’t mandating tow truck companies to get these folks out.”

“We want them removed. They should leave,” agrees Coun. Rawlson King, whose Rideau-Rockcliffe ward includes Overbrook.

More than a week ago, the Ottawa Police Service redirected protesters from a besieged downtown overloaded with trucks to the Coventry Road stadium lot. “It was supposed to be temporary,” King says. “The occupiers took advantage of the situation.”

After they arrived, protesters turned their encampment into a base of operations and fuel depot. Last Sunday night, dozens of heavily armed police officers, with snipers positioned on the stadium’s roof, raided the encampment and removed at least one fuel tanker. Police also arrested two people.

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But the encampment was allowed to remain.

King, a former president of the Overbrook Community Association, says the Coventry Road encampment is “relatively isolated,” surrounded by light industrial and commercial properties, while most of Overbrook’s residents are a few blocks north or more.

One of them is Provost, who says: “We can hear the horns a little bit. Sometimes you smell diesel.”

But she says a few small residential streets immediately north of Coventry Road “bear the brunt of the noise and congestion and fumes.”

On the plus side, protesters have not used their non-stop horn-honking tactic in Overbrook, sparing the hearing and mental health of residents.

However, King and people in Overbook are concerned about their proximity to a fuel dump, especially if the occupiers are lighting fires to keep warm.

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“If you think of what occurred in the city with the Eastway explosion, community members would be very concerned,” King says.

Residents also have fears about using the Max Keeping Bridge, a pedestrian walkway above the Queensway that connects RCGT Park to the Tremblay Station on Ottawa’s LRT line, which serves the nearby VIA Rail train station.

Resident Jill Piebiak has posted signs on the bridge, warning users about the encampment that is steps away from its north end.

“I’m extremely concerned about any pedestrians who would be using it,” she says. “I don’t think the occupiers are exactly the most friendly people.”

An Overbrook resident who lives in an apartment building overlooking the Vanier Parkway says she canvassed more than 20 of her neighbours and found they are very much united in opposing the nearby occupation.

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“Overwhelmingly they said they felt like they were being held hostage,” said the woman, who did not want her name used for fear of reprisals.

She says she has considered launching a “red ribbon” campaign that would encourage people to display ribbons on their balconies, windows or cars to show their support for science, medical workers, governments leading the way out of the pandemic and residents and businesses negatively impacted by the occupation of Ottawa.

“I feel like everywhere in the city we need to do something visually to show these folks they’re in the minority,” she says.

“They’re hurting so many people,” she adds.

Fellow Overbrook resident Alexandra Pope says the arrival of the occupiers makes her feel tired and sad for her community.

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“We’ve been through so much,” Pope says. “There’s already a perception that Overbook is a dangerous place, beset by gun violence, gang violence. What’s happening over on Coventry is so not representative of the Overbrook I know.

“I don’t want people to get the impression that Overbrook welcomed them here,” Pope says. “That’s just not the case.”

Despite Sunday’s raid, Piebiak says she feels police have abandoned Overbrook to the occupiers.

While the occupation of the city-owned parking lot occurred under police direction, there was no permit issued by city staff, King says. Nor did the stadium’s leaseholder, the Ottawa Titans Baseball Club, agree to convoy moving in, King says.

King notes that he sits on the Ottawa Police Services Board, the seven-member civilian body that oversees the police, but he says the board cannot direct the police.

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He says that, while the Ottawa Police Service is not discussing tactics or intelligence, it has said its end goal is to clear the Coventry Road encampment.

“If you can really remove the supply lines for the operation, then you can really start the see the occupation itself wind down,” King says. “I’m certain that’s what the police service is trying to do, and it makes sense to me.”

But the unanswerable question is how long clearing out the Coventry Road encampment might take.

“It’s pretty unambiguous from the community that it can’t go on for an indeterminate amount of time,” King says.

phum@postmedia.com

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