It looks like neither police nor protesters are showing their hands before this weekend’s G-7 finance ministers’ meeting.
The Mounties and Halifax Regional Police, who are working together on security for the meeting, are tight-lipped about how many officers will be working, what weapons and crowd-control measures they’ll use if things get out of control, or whether they’ll have snipers on the rooftops and dogs sniffing for bombs.
Mounties and city police have cancelled their vacations and set up an elaborate command centre with live camera feeds at the RCMP’s Oxford Street headquarters. They barricaded downtown streets last night, and plan to close metro’s airspace this afternoon.
The RCMP, whose mandate is to protect VIPs and the families of delegates meeting at the World Trade and Convention Centre, City Hall, the Delta Halifax and the Prince George Hotel, aren’t saying much about what they’ve got planned.
Likewise, some of the hundreds of protesters expected in Grand Parade today are making only vague references to a surprise they’re planning.
“We don’t want to be specific about where things are happening and what precisely we’re planning, because we want to be able to do it,” said protester Jessica Squires, a member of the G-7 Welcoming Committee. “Since we’re planning civil disobedience, there’s the chance that we might get headed off at the pass by the police.”
Squires said protesters plan to try to get close enough to hand pink slips to the finance ministers, but she doubts that will happen.
“It’s obviously unlikely, but the attempts will be made,” she said.
Halifax Regional Police will be in charge of keeping demonstrations confined to the Grand Parade.
Officers from both forces will secure the area between the Grand Parade and Citadel Hill, which will be closed to traffic.
Access to the summit’s four main meeting spots will be controlled by officers at the entrances and exits, who will be asking for identification. An emergency-response team made up of highly trained and heavily armed officers from both forces will be on duty round-the-clock near the summit. Police medics will also be on duty.
Cars entering the Scotia Square parkade will go through security checks beginning this morning, and cars left in the parking garage overnight will also be checked.
Pedestrians entering or leaving Scotia Square will be confined to the north sidewalk.
City Hall will be closed at 3 p.m., but Halifax Regional Municipality offices in the Duke Street Tower across the street will maintain regular office hours and close at 4:30 p.m.
Police have reserved jail cells around the province and have stocked up on pepper-spray and other crowd-control weapons. The military is on standby.
Protesters are planning a “mobile street party” starting this afternoon.
The big rally and march will start at noon tomorrow, when they’ll protest “the violence of the G-7 policies” by blocking either an intersection or a sidewalk with a “die-in.”
Protesters plan to lie on the pavement and play dead to “highlight the negative effects those policies have on the peoples of the world,” Squires said.
At the Cambridge Suites this morning, protesters plan to unveil a giant cheque for $4 billion US made out to “The World’s Children,” which they want signed by Finance Minister John Manley
Speakers will call on the finance ministers to fund the World Bank’s Education for All action plan, which is on the agenda for the weekend.
The plan sets out a framework for financing free universal primary education and proposes fast-tracking some developing countries for immediate support.
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