Ottawa police surged their numbers into the downtown area of the nation’s capital on Thursday as law enforcement prepare to push out the Freedom Convoy protesters who have sat in non-violent protest for roughly three weeks.
Law enforcement passed around written warning for the second consecutive day, ordering protesters to “leave the area now” and threatening potential arrest on a charge of “mischief.” Police have also sectioned off a “security area” around Parliament Hill, encircling the protest area in checkpoints to prevent anyone without an approved reason from entering the area. The police also threw up an additional security fence around Parliament.
The "secured area" is pretty much the entirety of downtown Ottawa. pic.twitter.com/32F0LAwzIz
— Andrew Lawton (@AndrewLawton) February 18, 2022
“The secured area includes almost 100 checkpoints that will have police presence to ensure that those seeking entry to that secure area for an unlawful reason such as joining a protest cannot enter the downtown core,” interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell, who took over after former chief Peter Sloly resigned on Tuesday, said in a press conference.
Police largely avoided directly engaging protesters camped out within the secured area. Police did move in to make several arrests on Thursday, however. In one of the arrests, Ottawa officers cuffed one of the protest’s organizers, Chris Barber. Two other arrests were of people who appeared to not be associated with the protest’s core group of organizers and truckers, according to David Paisley, who manages supplies and logistics for the truckers.
The number of police in the downtown area appeared to outnumber the number of protesters for the first time since the protest began in late January, according to The Washington Examiner. However, in absolute numbers, the number of law enforcement tallied nowhere near the number that showed up for the protest’s first weekend, Paisley told The Daily Wire.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time since its passage in 1988 on Monday, calling it a “last resort” to counter the “illegal blockades” set up by the Freedom Convoy protesters. Trudeau appeared in Parliament on Thursday to justify invoking the act and defend against his critics.
“We understand that everyone is tired of this pandemic,” Trudeau said, according to the Examiner. “We understand that Canadians are frustrated with [COVID-19]. Some protesters came to Ottawa to express their frustrations and fatigue with public health measures. That’s their right. It’s a right that we’ll defend in this free and democratic country. But the illegal blockades and occupations are not peaceful protests. They have to stop.”
Opposition lawmakers in the Parliament, as well as premiers in some provinces, have hammered Trudeau for resorting to the act, which critics say is unnecessary, especially considering that the Trudeau government has not attempted to parley with protest leaders. Trudeau has instead attacked the protesters, accusing them of extremism and white supremacy.
A core group of dozens of protesters have continued to hold their ground despite threats from Trudeau and the police. Many of them are prepared to be arrested for their cause.
“[The Trudeau government] underestimated the determination and the intelligence of those here, and so everyone still here on the ground, they’re basically willing to give their lives for this – peacefully of course,” Paisley told The Daily Wire on Monday.
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