Twenty-two days after a convoy of trucks rammed into the nation’s capital to protest against pandemic restrictions, hundreds of policemen in downtown Ottawa moved in to arrest the protesters Friday morning, in hopes of ending weeks of stalemate that have roiled the city, angered local residents and rocked the country.
After an unusually heavy night of snow, while police made several arrests, lines of police in fluorescent vests were seen moving toward protesters on Parliament Hill, aided by at least two armored vehicles and tactical officers armed with rifles and helmets.
Police in tactical gear opened the door of a yellow van belonging to Mike Jamieson, a 68-year-old truck driver who had left his vehicle.
Several heavy-duty trailers with license plates removed and company names labeled Ottawa police were starting to tow protesters’ trucks.
The Ottawa Police Department at noon tweeted that 15 people had been arrested. BJ Dichter, a spokesman for the lorry, wrote on Twitter that it was time for the protesters to leave, saying police had smashed the window of a driver’s van.
Among those arrested on Thursday night was Tamara Lich, a leading activist, fundraiser and singer who has advocated secession in Canada’s western provinces. She became one of the main voices of the protest movement.
The police mobilization comes after criticism that law enforcement was moving too slowly to end the protests, allowing protesters to mock locals for wearing masks. , honking their horns in quiet residential areas and vandalizing local businesses.
The House of Representatives also canceled a debate scheduled for Friday, citing police activity.
Law enforcement has created a perimeter with about 100 checkpoints in downtown Ottawa, to prevent anyone but residents from entering.
Yes a sense of anticipation throughout the truck’s garrison as reports came in from their organizers via a shared string of text messages that police cruisers had been sighted with large numbers outside the rally.
“They’re coming,” said a man in a cape with a Canadian flag. “They’ll kill us.”
While it was conducted with caution, the police action seemed to mark the culmination of a tenacious protest that has reverberated around the world, and is a pivotal moment in Canada’s history of civil disobedience and law enforcement. This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the rare step of declaring a nationwide state of public order emergency – the first such declaration in half a century – to end the protests.
Logjam in the nation’s capital, the week-long blockade of the Ontario Bridge, which is so critical to the auto manufacturers’ supply chains, and media coverage of all of it across the board. The globe has given the protests an overwhelming resonance and impact.
As police crack down on protests, the so-called “Liberty Convoy” is likely to endure long after the last lorries depart – if only a vivid sample of how the Civilian compliance can be effective, especially in a liberal democracy where the threshold for allowing law enforcement to intervene to prevent protests can be high.
Like 2011’s Occupy Wall Street, the Canadian convoys show what seem like fringe political movements can rally forces at a time of anxiety – and when the world’s cameras are on them. Back then, the driving force was anger at widespread social inequality. These days it is a deadly global pandemic.
In addition to Ms. Lich, Chris Barber, another main organizer, was also arrested on Thursday. Lich faces one count of “consulting to commit mischief,” and Mr Barber charged with “consulting to commit mischief, advising to commit misdemeanor disobedience to a court order, and counsel to commit the crime of obstruction of police,” Ottawa police said in statements Friday. The two organizers will appear in court on Friday.
Ms. Lich, of Medicine Hat, Alberta, has emerged as a public figure and the most visible leader of the truck fleet. She’s a former fitness instructor who worked in the energy industry and sings and plays guitar in a band called “Blind Mondays” in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
Protests began a few weeks ago with a loosely organized group of truckers protesting demands that they be vaccinated if they cross the US-Canada border. They expanded into a broader movement opposed to a range of pandemic measures and to Mr. Trudeau in general.
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