OTTAWA – After weeks of protests that have paralyzed parts of Canada and captured global attention, police forces mobilized on Thursday in and around Ottawa, the scene of the last major blockade Finally, warned that a crackdown was “imminent” and threatened protesters with a series of legal penalties.
Tensions increased throughout the day as authorities issued a series of warnings, saying that once they move in to clear the capital city’s streets, protesters face arrest, confiscation. their vehicles, the loss of any pets in their trucks and cars, the revocation of their driver’s licenses, fines – and up to five years in prison if they bring children to an illegal protest France.
“We have been consolidating our resources, developing clear plans and preparing for action. Ottawa’s acting police officer, Steve Bell, said at an afternoon news conference. He said police had created a perimeter with about 100 checkpoints to prevent any newcomers from joining the protest in the downtown area around Parliament Hill.
After declaring downtown a closed security area to outsiders, police officials also closed all exits leading to downtown on the Trans-Canada Highway, Ottawa’s crosstown highway. . By Thursday night, congestion was widespread across several inner city neighborhoods.
On Parliament Hill, the torrential rain left Ottawa drenched for much of the day into snow, and defiant protesters remained in the streets, some of them dancing. A group of protesters followed a group filming the news, shouting, “Are you proud of what you’re doing?”
On Wellington Street, one of the streets lined with trucks, few police were seen, despite repeated warnings from officials during the day.
The protests, organized by members of far-right groups. highways and some streets in the city. But mostly peaceful civil disobedience has evolved into a small but powerful outlet for broader frustration and anger at the limitations of the pandemic in general and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.
Organizers issued a call on Wednesday for more truckers and supporters to flood into Ottawa, making the blockade there too great for police to disperse. But the number of vehicles used by protesters on the streets there has dwindled in recent days – though still in the hundreds – as it clearly shows that the official’s patience is thinning. .
The weather forecast said heavy snow fell overnight and temperatures dropped below freezing on Friday – conditions that could greatly complicate the movement of heavy trucks. The dire police alert and worsening condition have raised expectations on the streets that police will arrive on Thursday night or early Friday, although how much resistance they will encounter is unlikely. clear.
As the convoy protests appear to be coming to an end, at least temporarily, it remains to be seen what long-term effects they may have on the often-restricted arena of Canadian politics.
Following Mr. Trudeau’s statement on Monday about national emergency under the Emergencies Act, which gave the police greater powers, law enforcement officials clearly hoped that day of escalation warning will drive away protesters without the use of force – especially truckers, who will face financial ruin at the loss of expensive vehicles and driver’s licenses, as well like going to jail.
But Many protesters remained defiant. Surrounded by five of her eight children, Daryl Sheppard, a teacher from North Bay, Ontario, 220 miles northwest of Ottawa, walked past Thursday’s protest with an anti-injection sign strains. Mr. Sheppard, 41, said he and his children will stay in Ottawa, no matter what the police say.
“I don’t really care about laws that infringe on a citizen’s right, my right to testify,” he said, a view echoed in some form by many of his comrades.
Protesters said organizers had instructed them that if police came to uproot them, they should lock themselves in their cars and refuse to cooperate. But the border blockers had largely dispersed by the time the police moved in, and there were few arrests.
Officials – and many ordinary Canadians – have asserted that it is the protesters themselves who are infringing on the rights of others, hindering commerce and clogging the streets. Border blockades have forced some automakers’ factories to halt or slow production, sending workers home.
Understanding the Trucker protests in Canada
Voice your displeasure. A protest by truckers against vaccine mandates has emerged as one nationwide movement that has slowed the economy and brought life to a standstill in parts of Canada. Here’s what to know:
“We’re not using the Emergencies Act to call on the military,” Trudeau said in Parliament on Thursday. “We do not restrict people’s right to free speech. We do not restrict the freedom of peaceful assembly. “
However, he added, “blockades and occupations are illegal” and are threatening the economy “and the availability of essential items such as food and medicine.”
On Thursday, attorneys for a group of Ottawa residents expanded the lawsuit they filed, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from protesters, organizers and those who provided financial support to the protesters. surname.
Along with the checkpoints in Ottawa, police erected barricades around the Parliament building. On the outskirts of the city, officers gathered in large numbers at various points, including several hotels. In addition to the Ottawa police, the mobilization included the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mount Police, the national force, although it is unclear how many officers gathered to spur the protesters.
Mr. Trudeau and other officials have been criticized for not acting faster and stronger against the protests, but the Canadian government and law enforcement have long espoused a patient approach to the issue. with peaceful protest. The prime minister frequently notes that he has no direct control over law enforcement and his declaration of emergency was the first such move by a government in more than 50 years.
Sarah Maslin Nir and Ian Austen report from Ottawa, Richard Pérez-Peña from New York and Vjosa Isai from Toronto. Natalie Kitroeff contribution report from Ottawa, Dan Bilefsky from Montreal, and Allison Hannaford from the North Bay, Ontario.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/world/canada/canada-protest-police-crackdown.html Police in Ottawa Mobilizing for an ‘imminent’ crackdown on protest