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Tensions rise in Ottawa, as truckers are warned by police to leave

As police warned motorists Wednesday to flee the capital or face arrest, a showdown was evident in Ottawa's three-week-old siege by truckers protesting COVID-19.

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Tensions rise in Ottawa, as truckers are warned by police to leave

After the demonstrators had abandoned their last truck blockade at the U.S. border, the big rigs that were parked outside Parliament were the movement's last stronghold.

All border crossings opened for business after two weeks of unrest. Attention centered on the capital where drivers defiantly tore up warnings telling them not to return home.

Yellow "police liaison vest" police officers went from rig-to-rig knocking on doors, handing leaflets to truckers informing them that they could face prosecution, lose their licences, and have their vehicles seized under Canada’s Emergencies Act. Police began also ticketing vehicles.

One protester shouted "I will not go home!" Others threw the warning in a public toilet. Protesters sat in trucks and honked their trumpets, creating a loud chorus that echoed throughout the city.

Just before Wednesday night, police issued a second round more specific warnings. They warned of the possible penalties and charges that could be faced by those who stayed. According to the interim chief of police, officers may soon move in to remove hundreds of trucks.
"We will retake the entire downtown core and all occupied spaces. This illegal protest will be removed. "We will restore our city to normalcy," said interim Chief Steve Bell in a statement. These actions will be heard and seen by you in the coming days.

Protest leaders are ready to take action on Wednesday

David Paisley, a truck driver friend, said, "If it means I have to go to jail, or if I have to be fined to restore freedom in this country, millions of people will have given far more for freedom."

Two days earlier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invokedthe Emergency Law to stop the protests.

"It is not the job of politicians to tell police what to do and when. Trudeau stated Wednesday that the emergency act was used to ensure police officers have the tools they need. "It's something I, and all Ottawa residents, hope will happen soon.

Trudeau's 50-year-old, boyish-looking, has now faced one of the most difficult tests of his career. Trudeau has channeled the star power, if not the political heft, of Pierre Trudeau who was prime minister a generation back.

Some lawmakers fault Trudeau's younger brother for not acting more strongly against protests. Others accuse him of taking too much control over emergency powers.

Protesters in trucks and other vehicles have blocked border crossings and jammed streets of capital since late January. Although the Freedom Convoy was initially concerned with Canada's vaccination requirement for truckers entering Canada, the demonstrations quickly turned into a wide-ranging attack on Trudeau and COVID-19 precautions.

Protesters who had blocked traffic and trade for over a week at the U.S. border at Emerson (Manitoba), opposite North Dakota, were able to pull away in tractors or trucks on Wednesday without being arrested.

Officials at the border said that within hours, the crossing had been fully opened with no delays for commercial trucks.

Protests have attracted support from right-wing extremists and have been cheered and received donations by conservatives in the U.S., prompting complaints that America and its pandemic policies have had a negative influence on Canada.

Daniel Bulford, a protest leader, described himself as an ex-officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and a recent member in Trudeau’s security detail. He accused Trudeau of resorting to "extremely authoritarian" measures in order to end the demonstrations.

Protest organizers encouraged their supporters to gather in the capital, making it difficult for police officers to remove them. The nation's top safety officer warned them not to go or they could face criminal consequences.

The premiers of two Canadian provinces as well as 16 U.S. governors wrote to Trudeau, President Joe Biden and requesting that they end the mandates that their countries have for vaccines to be given to truckers who cross the border.

In some cases, fear of violence and a lack of manpower were the reasons authorities have resisted the call to action against protesters in the country over the past few weeks.

However, many residents of Ottawa have been frustrated by the bumper to bumper occupation. They complain that they are being intimidated and harassed on the clogged streets. This week, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly was frustrated and lost his job.

Officials from Ottawa said Tuesday that 360 vehicles were still involved in the blockade of the core of the city, down from the high of around 4,000 on Tuesday.

Michael Kempa, a professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, stated that "they don't want this to go because this is their last stand,".

Ottawa's child welfare agency advised parents attending the demonstration to make arrangements for someone to care for their children in case of a police raid. Some protesters brought their children with them.

The police in the capital seemed to be following the same playbook used by authorities to break the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ontario to Detroit. The police handed out leaflets to inform protesters that they were at risk of being arrested.

Police arrived and arrested many others who remained after the demonstrators had left. The blockade disrupted goods flow between the two countries, and caused the auto industry to reduce production on both sides.

Stephanie Carvin, who used to work for Canada's national intelligence service, and now teaches national security at Carleton University, Ottawa, stated that police in the capital are in a difficult situation. She said that some of the protesters are extremists and that police face violence if they attempt to disperse them or arrest them.

Carvin stated, "The last thing that we want is any type of propaganda that can really fuel the flames of these movements for years to come."

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