Leave now or risk being arrested: The end of the Ottawa occupation could come quickly

Ottawa police have begun issuing advisories and cracking down on truckers blocking downtown

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Armed with new powers and reinforcements, Ottawa police began issuing advisories to truckers blocking downtown on Wednesday warning them they should leave now or face arrest.

It’s part of a crackdown promised to bring a swift end to the Freedom Convoy protests that swept through the capital on January 28.

The bulletin says anyone who blocks streets or helps others block streets is breaking the law and could be arrested. He also warned that police now have the power to seize vehicles that are part of the protest and ban people from moving within a certain area.

“This means that anyone who comes to Ottawa for the purpose of joining the ongoing protest is breaking the law,” the notice read.

There are now about 360 vehicles in the city center, down from 4,000 at the height of the protests.

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The initial reaction to the crackdown was mixed. At least one major platform left the blockade as some protesters dropped the warning leaflets into a toilet in front of a truck.

Wendell Thorndyke, who has been parked outside parliament for 21 days, insisted he had no intention of leaving.

“Oh, no, we think that’s cute. They turned all the cops into maids,” he said as he filled his engine with oil.

On Wednesday afternoon, Ottawa police pledged the force would take action to remove protesters from downtown in the coming days and warned that some of the methods police are prepared to use are not the ones the people are used to seeing in Ottawa.

A complication for law enforcement was the dozens of children camping with the protesters. from Ottawa children’s aid society monitors whether the well-being of children is compromised because they are with their parents in the midst of an emotional occupation.

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The society released a statement on Wednesday urge parents to make alternative custody arrangements in case they are unable to care for their children following a police intervention. The agency is mandated to protect young people when parents become unavailable and have not made such arrangements, he noted. If adults and children are separated as a result of police action, the company will work to reunite the families, the statement added.

Also on Wednesday, a court injunction ordering Ottawa truckers to stop using their horns was extended for 60 days. Ontario Superior Court Judge Hugh McLean said the protesters’ right to be heard does not outweigh the public’s right to peace and safety.

Police distribute information sheets and talk to demonstrators as truckers and supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada February 16, 2022. REUTERS /Blair Gable
Police distribute information sheets and talk to demonstrators as truckers and supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada February 16, 2022. REUTERS /Blair Gable

The Emergencies Act invoked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday allows the government to bolster local police forces with Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers and gives other rarely used powers.

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“Politicians don’t decide when and how the police should act, but we’ve given them a lot more tools and we hope they can use them…to make sure this barricade ends,” Trudeau told reporters. Wednesday.

“This work begins now…there is an urgency to this response,” Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said Tuesday when asked when Ottawa residents can expect the order is restored.

Reuters reports that frustration over the inability of police to lift blockades at the U.S. border and in the capital ultimately prompted Trudeau to seek emergency powers.

A stage with music and speakers, as well as hot tubs and food tents on Parliament Hill were reported over the weekend. Frustrated city residents took to the streets in counter-protest marches.

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Protesters Gabriel (L) and Jean-Philippe (R) sit in a hot tub between trucks during a protest against pandemic health rules and the Trudeau government, outside Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario, on February 12, 2022. (Photo by Ed JONES /AFP)
Protesters Gabriel (L) and Jean-Philippe (R) sit in a hot tub between trucks during a protest against pandemic health rules and the Trudeau government, outside Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario, on February 12, 2022. (Photo by Ed JONES /AFP)

On Tuesday, in the face of growing criticism for the passive police response, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly resigned.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Brenda Lucki said she met with Steve Bell, the acting chief of police in Ottawa and the chief of the Ontario Provincial Police, on Tuesday.

“Our teams are engaged and look forward to working together,” she tweeted on Tuesday evening. The RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police have established an integrated command center with the Ottawa Police.

Police have begun ticketing some of the hundreds of vehicles blocking downtown. Police say they have already laid 33 charges and made 18 arrests.

Members of the blockade called the invocation of the Emergency Measures Act a scare tactic.

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Trucks, motorhomes and other vehicles displaying Canadian flags or banners with the word “freedom” in giant letters along their front grilles remain in front of Parliament Hill, with drivers saying they will stay put until that all COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions are lifted.

A truck driver said protesters were taking care of the city.

“When we arrived here, everything was full of snow. Look who cleaned it… There’s no trash,” said John, who declined to give his last name. “And we are the terrorists?”

One of the organizers of the convoy protest accused people who criticized the occupation on social media of harassment and urged his supporters to speak out against them.

Patrick King, on a Facebook Live show on Tuesday night, read the names and comments of critics who posted on Facebook and Twitter and displayed them on screen.

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Details of the Emergency Measures Act were released on Tuesday evening. Under the law, bringing children to anti-government roadblocks, participating directly in protests, or providing aid such as food or fuel to those involved could result in a fine of up to $5,000 or five years in prison.

Blockades are not permitted on Parliament Hill and surrounding streets, official residences, war memorials, airports, ports, border crossings, piers, lighthouses, canals, interprovincial and international bridges, hospitals and COVID-19 vaccination clinics, trade corridors and infrastructure necessary for the provision of public services, including electricity generation and transmission.

Cabinet orders are now in effect but must be confirmed by motions to be put to both the House of Commons and the Senate for a vote.

The government could take until next week to table the motion invoking the law itself, but only has until Thursday to do so for motions on specific powers being passed, which will remain in place. for 30 days unless the government revokes them sooner.

With additional reporting by Tom Blackwell, Ottawa Citizen, The Canadian Press and Reuters

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Michael A. Bynum