Police Forces Swell in Ottawa as Prelude to Clamp Down

Police Forces Swell in Ottawa as Prelude to Clamp Down

Twenty-two days after a trucker convoy rumbled into the nation’s capital to protest pandemic restrictions, the police moved in to clamp down on protesters in downtown Ottawa Friday morning, hoping to finish weeks of gridlock which have roiled the town, infuriated native residents and shaken the nation.

After an evening of unusually heavy snowfall, throughout which police made a number of arrests, not less than 100 police had assembled within the metropolis middle Friday morning, and police have been seen arresting three protesters. Amongst these arrested on Thursday evening was Tamara Lich, a number one activist, fund-raiser and singer who prior to now has advocated the secession of Canada’s western provinces. She has grow to be one of many important voices of the protest motion.

The police mobilization comes after mounting criticism that regulation enforcement has moved too slowly to finish the protests, allowing protesters to taunt native residents for sporting masks, honk their horns in quiet residential neighborhoods and undermine native companies.

About two dozen police automobiles, together with an armored one, have been on the prepared, together with vans for transporting these detained, and a convoy of tow vehicles, escorted by the police. Two motor coaches filled with cops have been idling on a road within the metropolis middle. The buzzing of a police drone could possibly be heard overhead.

On Thursday, regulation enforcement created a fringe with about 100 checkpoints in Ottawa’s downtown core, to maintain anybody however residents from getting into, and declared the downtown a safe zone closed to outsiders.

Among the many protesters there was a temper of quiet defiance. As of 9 a.m. on Friday, the truck convoys had not but began their day by day honking. There was a way of anticipation throughout the trucker encampment as experiences trickled in from their organizers through a shared textual content message chain that police cruisers have been seen massing in numbers exterior of the demonstration.

The logjam within the nation’s capital, the weekslong blockade of an Ontario bridge that’s important to automakers’ provide chains, and the media projection of all that onto the worldwide stage have given the protests an outsized megaphone and influence.

Because the police transfer to clamp down on the protests, the so-called “Freedom Convoy” will doubtless dwell on lengthy after the final vehicles depart — if solely as a vivid template of how civil disobedience may be efficient, particularly in a liberal democracy the place the brink for regulation enforcement intervening to cease demonstrations may be excessive.

Very like Occupy Wall Road in 2011, the Canada convoys present that what seem to be fringe political actions can collect power at a time of hysteria — and when the world’s cameras are pointed at them. Again then, the driving power was anger over endemic social inequality. Today it’s a deadly international pandemic.

Along with Ms. Lich, Chris Barber, one other important organizer, was additionally arrested on Thursday. Ms. Lich faces one cost for “counseling to commit the offence of mischief,” and Mr. Barber was charged with “counselling to commit the offence of mischief, counselling to commit the offence of disobey courtroom order and counselling to commit the offence of impede police,” the Ottawa police mentioned in statements on Friday. The 2 organizers have been due in courtroom on Friday.

Dagny Pawlak, a spokeswoman for the protest, known as Ms. Lich’s arrest “completely baseless and a shame to any liberal democracy, though not a shock.”

Ms. Lich, of Medication Hat, Alberta, has emerged as the general public face and probably the most seen chief of the trucker convoy in opposition to pandemic restrictions.

All through the protests, Ms. Lich has been adept at deploying social media — and her Twitter feed — to amplify the protesters’ grievances. Shortly earlier than her arrest, she instructed a neighborhood reporter her message to the demonstrators was to “maintain the road.”

Steve Bell, interim chief of the Ottawa Police Service, mentioned Thursday afternoon that the police have been dedicated to ending the “illegal occupation.”

In an indication of intensifying frustration over the protests, on Thursday the scope of a class-action lawsuit in opposition to the protesters was expanded to incorporate extra staff and companies whose livelihoods have been upended by the protests. In whole, the lawsuit is looking for about 306 million Canadian {dollars} in compensation for misplaced earnings.

The protests started weeks in the past with a loosely organized group of truckers objecting to a requirement that they be vaccinated in the event that they cross the U.S.-Canada border. With organizing assist from right-wing activists, the protests expanded right into a broader motion against an array of pandemic measures and to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau usually.

Mr. Trudeau took the uncommon step this week of declaring a nationwide public order emergency — the primary such declaration in half a century — to finish the protests. The transfer prolonged extra strong policing measures throughout the nation, and took goal at each protesters’ fund-raising, which has been deemed a felony exercise, and the demonstrators’ private and enterprise financial institution accounts.

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