Although protestors said they were only there to raise awareness for missing and murdered Aboriginal women, the Thunder Bay police station was on high alert Saturday.
Around 20 members of Operation Thunderbird, a collective who have made claims of police incompetence over alleged sexual assault cases in Thunder Bay, stood outside of the local police station on Saturday afternoon singing and making speeches.
Protestors, some masked, spoke of family members who have been murdered or gone missing. Others spoke of what it’s like to be victims of sexual assault. They said the protest was not about bashing police but encouraging them to do their jobs while standing up for missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
But with barricades, cars at the entrances and officers waiting to check identification indoors, Insp. Dan Taddeo said Thunder Bay Police Service had reason to believe there could have been violence at the rally after threats against the force were made through social media. Attempts by police to communicate with the protestors weren’t successful Taddeo said.
“By not communicating with us we had to take action and certain measures,” he said.
The group said that the only threat ever made was a tongue-in-cheek comment about language made on Facebook. Police trucks, armed officers and video cameras weren’t necessary just because they threatened to swear the group said.
“’[W]hy yes, naughty words might be used’ - this is the exact nature of the ‘threat’ that triggered an outrageously mockable level of preparation and overtime by Thunder Bay Police this weekend,” the group said in a statement.
Taddeo said it’s also unfortunate that none of the protestors were from Thunder Bay.
“This protest put us in a position where we had to allocate police resources in the city of Thunder Bay to deal with this situation where they failed to communicate with us and to take away from our ability to properly police the citizens of this city who pay for this police service,” he said.
But those in front of the station said that the fact that no one from Thunder Bay was at the protest is part of the problem. They spoke of citizens being too afraid to speak out. Taddeo said that’s not true.
“I would completely disagree with the assertion that people are scared,” he said.
Police weren’t sure what the cost of overtime and other resources for the rally would be. Operation Thunderbird said they will release an expense report for its costs for putting the event on by Tuesday. It wants local police to do the same within a reasonable timeframe.