Trudeau says protests and blockades could return after police clear central Ottawa

OTTAWA — The federal government remains alert to the possibility that trucks and protesters could return to Canada’s capital after police spent the weekend arresting protesters and breaking up blockades on Ottawa streets, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday.

Downtown was eerily quiet after weeks of the crushing sound of car horns, idling engines and large crowds protesting the Liberal government, vaccination mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.

Roads once congested with trucks and protesters have since been cleared, although some debris left behind by protesters has yet to be cleared.

Still, Trudeau said his government is concerned about reforming blockades in Ottawa and at Canada’s ports of entry.

“Even though lockdowns are being lifted across border openings right now, even though things seem to be resolving very well in Ottawa, this state of emergency is not over,” Trudeau told a conference. late morning press.

At a truck stop about an hour east of Ottawa on the main highway into Montreal, a few protesters pledged to return to the city.

Matt Wall, of southern Manitoba, said he was arrested but not charged on Friday after police smashed the windows of the truck where he had tied himself to the steering wheel.

“We finish it,” he told the truck stop on Monday, adding that he hadn’t driven 28 straight hours just to get home at the first sign of resistance.

A few dozen vehicles were parked there next to large platforms. Some displayed Canadian flags or otherwise carried protest signs, including vulgar slogans attacking Trudeau and Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

Across the highway, dozens of vehicles — including a number of large trucks, RVs and pickup trucks — were parked at a private farm.

Other protesters seem to have stayed even closer. Just east of downtown Ottawa, some of the pickup trucks displaying Canada flags and protest signs were seen on residential streets outside the downtown police perimeter, Ms. .Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who represents the territory.

“I’m worried about that,” Fleury said in an interview Monday. “I think the 100 checkpoints helped, but certainly didn’t solve the community angst.”

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said a number of people associated with the protest were still in the Ottawa area. Trudeau added that a convoy from Fort McMurray, Alta. en route to Ottawa was turned away at the Manitoba border a few days ago.

“The situation is always about people repositioning themselves, people indicating that they are ready to block, to continue their illegal occupation to disrupt the lives of Canadians,” Trudeau said.

As the Prime Minister spoke, parliamentarians debated whether to approve extraordinary powers for police to suppress the protest in Ottawa. Some Tories have argued that the powers are no longer needed because the lockdowns are over.

One of the emergency measures allows banks to freeze the accounts of people linked to the funding of protests in Ottawa and elsewhere.

The RCMP said it provided the banks with a list of Ottawa protest influencers and people who did not want to move their vehicles out of the area, but no information on individual donors. The gendarmerie in a statement said 219 financial products, including accounts, have been frozen so far.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said anyone affected has an easy way to unfreeze their accounts: “Stop being part of blockades.”

Ottawa police said Monday that 196 people linked to the so-called Freedom Convoy protest have been arrested, including 110 facing various charges. Among the arrests were two people who were arrested on Friday, released without charge and then returned to the protest.

The Ottawa Police statement said 115 protesters’ vehicles were towed.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson suggested to CBC News on Saturday that the vehicles should be sold to cover the costs incurred by the city, but police said they would be impounded for a week and then returned to their owners.

About 20 of these trucks were taken from a site outside the core that protesters allegedly used as a base camp. The police had promised that officers would remain there to prevent anyone from returning to the site.

On Monday, the site was still littered with generators, chairs, tables, hay bales and other abandoned debris around an otherwise empty cabin, which displayed a Canadian flag and a fleur-de-lis, and was adorned with signs manuscripts of all types. .

Despite government apprehension, Ottawa police have told businesses that closed during the three-week protest that they should feel safe to reopen.

The Rideau Centre, Ottawa’s largest mall, remained closed on Monday. It closed on the first weekend the protest came to town.

Pedestrian traffic was still banned in the area closest to Parliament Hill, but police removed checkpoints around the Byward Market and part of downtown, encouraging people to support affected local businesses by demonstrations.

The Ottawa North and Navy restaurant announced plans to reopen on Wednesday. He promised to buy dinner from several Ottawa residents who have gone viral over their opposition to the protests, as well as Zexi Li, the 21-year-old civil servant who sought a court injunction to stop trucks from honking their horns downtown.

Moo Shu Ice Cream closed after the first week of protest after an alleged assault on a staff member on his way to work. The ice cream shop said it would celebrate the chance to reopen with ice cream tacos for “the most epic Taco Tuesday of our lives.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 21, 2022.

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