Twenty-two day after a trucker convoy invaded the capital to protest the restrictions on pandemics, hundreds of Ottawa police moved in to arrest protesters Friday morning. This was in an attempt to end weeks and weeks of gridlock that had engulfed the city, infuriated residents, and shaken Canada.
After a night of unusually high snowfall, police made several arrests. Rows of police officers wearing fluorescent jackets walked forward, backed at least two armored cars and tactical officers armed and equipped with rifles and helmets.
Several heavy tow trucks whose license plates had been removed and company names covered with Ottawa police stickers were beginning to tow protesters’ trucks away.
At noon, the Ottawa Police Service posted on Twitter that 15 people were being detained. Among those arrested on Thursday night was Tamara Lich, a leading activist, fund-raiser and singer who in the past has advocated the secession of Canada’s western provinces. She has been a leading voice in the protest movement.
After mounting criticism of law enforcement’s slow response to protests, the police mobilization was initiated. This allowed protesters to taunt residents by wearing masks, honk at their horns in quiet residential areas, and undermine local businesses.
Two dozen police cars were on standby, along with vans to transport those detained and a convoy if tow trucks. All of this was escorted the police. The drone buzzing could be heard from the sky.
A planned House of Commons debate was also cancelled by the House of Commons on Friday due to a police operation.
Law enforcement have created a perimeter with about 100 checkpoints in Ottawa’s downtown core, to keep anyone but residents from entering, and declared the downtown a secure zone closed to outside
There was a spirit of defiance among protesters. There was a sense that there was anticipation in the trucker encampment. Reports trickled in via a shared message chain from their organizers that they saw police cruisers gathered outside the demonstration.
A few blocks from the Parliament there was a party atmosphere, including a man who called himself “The Ottawa shaman” painting peoples’ faces red as a bagpiper played the Canadian national anthem.
The logjam in the nation’s capital, the weekslong blockade of an Ontario bridge that is vital to automakers’ supply chains, and the media projection of all that onto the global stage have given the protests an outsized megaphone and impact.
As the police move to clamp down on the protests, the so-called “Freedom Convoy” will likely live on long after the last trucks depart — if only as a vivid template of how civil disobedience can be effective, in particular in a liberal democracy where the threshold for law enforcement intervening to stop demonstrations can be high.
Much like Occupy Wall Street in 2011, the Canada convoys show that what seem like fringe political movements can gather force at a time of anxiety — and when the world’s cameras are pointed at them. Back then, anger at endemic social inequality was the driving force. It is now a global pandemic.
Chris Barber, another main organizer was also taken into police custody on Thursday. Ms. Lich faces one charge for “counselling 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 court order and counselling to commit the offence of obstruct police,” the Ottawa police said in statements on Friday. The court appearance was scheduled for Friday by the two organizers.
Learn about the Trucker Protests in Canada
Voicing grievances A demonstration by truck drivers protesting vaccine mandates has ballooned into a nationwide movement that has slowed the economy and brought life to a standstill in parts of Canada. Here’s what to know:
Dagny Pawlak, a spokeswoman for the protest, called Ms. Lich’s arrest “absolutely baseless and a disgrace to any liberal democracy.”
Ms. Lich, a Medicine Hat, Alberta resident, is the most prominent leader of the trucker convoy fighting pandemic restrictions. She is a former fitness instructor, who has worked in the energy sector and sung and played guitar in a band called “Blind Monday” in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
Throughout the protests, Ms. Lich has been adept at deploying social media — and her Twitter feed — to amplify the protesters’ grievances. Shortly before her arrest, she told a local reporter her message to the demonstrators was to “hold the line.”
As protests intensify, the scope of a class action lawsuit against protesters was expanded on Thursday to include more workers and businesses whose livelihoods were disrupted by the protests. The lawsuit seeks to recover lost income in the amount of 306 million Canadian dollars.
The protests started weeks ago when a loosely organized group truckers objected to the requirement that they be immunized if they crossed the U.S.-Canada border. They grew to be more hostile to a range of pandemic precautions and to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a whole.
Mr. Trudeau took the rare step this week of declaring a national public order emergency — the first such declaration in half a century — to end the protests.
Source: NY Times