Police push back mandate protesters in parliament grounds in Wellington on February 10, 2022, on the third day of demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions, inspired by a similar demonstration in Canada. Photo: VCG
Police in the Canadian capital Ottawa on Wednesday warned truck drivers blockading the downtown core to depart or face arrest in crackdown seeking to end a three-week protest over COVID-19 restrictions.
Interim Police Chief Steve Bell vowed “to take back the entirety of the downtown core and every occupied space” in “coming days.”
Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino accused extremist groups of helping organize protests in Ottawa and at US border crossings and repeated suggestions that some actors wanted to overthrow the Liberal government.
Police handed leaflets to truckers that said, “You must leave the area now. Anyone blocking streets … may be arrested.” Police also ticketed some of the hundreds of vehicles blocking Ottawa’s downtown core. At least one large rig left while some demonstrators put the leaflets into a toilet placed in front of a truck. Some truckers blew their horns in violation of a court order forbidding such behavior.
Wendell Thorndyke, who has parked in front of parliament for 21 days, insisted he had no intention of leaving. “We think it’s cute. They turned all the cops into meter maids,” he said as he filled his engine with oil.
In a video posted by CTV reporter Mackenzie Gray on Twitter, Tamara Lich, a prominent fundraiser for and organizer of the Ottawa protest, demanded an end to all state-of-emergency declarations, vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday invoked the little-used Emergencies Act, giving the Liberal government more powers to end the protest.
Sources told Reuters that frustration with the failure of police to lift blockades at the border and in the capital ultimately drove Trudeau to seek emergency powers.
Mendicino said there were links between protesters in the capital and members of a far-right organization who were charged in an Alberta border blockade earlier in the week.
Police arrested 13 people in the blockade at the town of Coutts, Alberta and seized weapons. Four members of the group have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
“What we’re beginning to see emerge now are the hallmarks of a sophisticated and capable organization of a small number of individuals …. driven by an extreme ideology that would seek … to overthrow the existing government,” he said.