Canadian police arrest two leaders of protesting truckers
OTTAWA (Ontario) -- Hundreds protesting Canada's COVID-19 restrictions were defiant and stood firm Thursday. Police threatened to end the three-week-long protest that had been going on.
Police arrived in large numbers at Ottawa's Parliament Hill. Workers also put up additional fences around government buildings. To stop protestors from reaching out to them, police also began to close off large swathes of downtown.
Steve Bell, interim Ottawa Police Chief, stated that "the action is imminent." "We are absolutely committed to ending this unlawful demonstration."
Tamara Lich, Chris Barber and Chris Barber were taken into custody by police for organizing protestors. However, officers did not move in force against the demonstrators. Late Thursday, Lich was taken into custody by police
Bell stated that police continued to negotiate with protesters, trying to persuade their departure. Bell stated that "we want this demonstration to stop peacefully," but that he added, "If they don't peacefully leave, there are plans." Many of the Freedom Convoy truckers appeared unmoved despite being warned by police and government for days that they could be arrested and have their rigs and bank accounts frozen.
Pat King, one of their leaders said that he was ready to watch the pepper sprayers hit him with pepper spray. He said that the trucks parked bumper to bumper were not allowed in Canada.
King instructed truckers to lock their doors later.
Truckers outside Parliament were obstructing a court order against honking that was issued to the neighborhood residents, amid rising tensions.
After weeks of protests and blockades, Ottawa was the last stronghold for the movement. It caused economic damage to both countries as well as a political crisis for Trudeau.
Protests have shaken Canada’s reputation for civility, rule-following, and inspired similar convoys in France and New Zealand.
"It's time for these illegal and dangerous actions to stop," Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, declared in Parliament. He was not far from the location where more than 300 trucks were parked.
He stated that they were a threat to the economy and to our relationships with our trading partners. They pose a threat to public security." Ottawa police started locking down large swathes of downtown, and allowing only those who live or work there, according to the interim chief.
The children of the protestors were particularly important to police. Bell stated that police are working with child welfare agencies to find a safe way to remove the children before authorities arrive.
The prime minister invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act to empower law enforcement authorities to declare blockades illegal, remove trucks, arrest drivers, suspend licenses, and take other actions.
Trudeau and several of his top ministers warned the protesters to leave on Thursday. This was an apparent attempt by the government either to prevent a clash or to show that it has gone the extra mile in avoiding one.
Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister, stated that the government had threatened to freeze truckers' accounts. It is happening. She said that she had the numbers in front.
Ottawa police distributed leaflets again demanding that truckers end their siege. They also placed notices on vehicles to inform owners where and how they can pick up their trucks, if they were towed.
Many Ottawa residents are furious at the occupation.
"We have seen people harassed, intimidated and threatened. Apartment buildings have been locked up. We've seen fires lit in corridors. "Residents are terrorized," stated Marco Mendicino, Canadian Public Safety Minister.
Protests by truckers, tractors and motor home owners initially focused on Canada's requirement that truckers enter the country with a vaccine. However, they quickly morphed into an attack on Trudeau's government and COVID-19 precautions.
The Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, was the most significant blockade at the border. The blockade disrupted the flow and production of auto parts between the two countries, and led to the arrest of dozens of protesters.
On Wednesday, the final blockade in Manitoba was lifted peacefully.
Right-wing extremists, veterans, and some of them armed, have supported the movement. Authorities have hesitated to take action against them.
Fox News personalities, as well as conservative U.S. citizens such Donald Trump, have encouraged protests. Trudeau claimed that the United States is responsible for roughly half of the funding for the barricades.
According to security experts, dispersing the protests in Ottawa could prove difficult and dangerous. There is also the possibility of violence. Some security experts suggested that heavy-handed law enforcement could be used by antigovernment extremists as propaganda.
Trucks were parked downtown shoulder to shoulder, with some tires removed to hinder towing.
David Carter, a professor at Michigan State University and a former officer in the police force, said that there is no playbook. I know that there are U.S. police chiefs who are looking into this and creating strategic plans and partnerships to manage protests like this, if they should happen in their cities.
Planning was also complicated by the presence of children. Canadian Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair stated that, as a showdown loomed, "This is not the place for children who are with their children." You must take them home immediately.