Truck horns and music that had blared almost nonstop since late January were intermittently quiet as officers began to masse in the cold drizzle, but protesters against coronavirus pandemic restrictions continued to move among the vehicles that blocked the streets around Parliament.
On Kent Street, amid rows of buzzing lorries refueled by volunteers, a single toilet sat in the street with a sign telling police to put their tickets inside.
New fences were erected on the Parliament Hill side of Wellington Street, next to protester encampments, and police moved in to limit those entering the city centre.
“Only those with legitimate reasons to enter the center, such as residents, businesses and others with legitimate reasons, will be allowed into the area. Illegal protesters must leave the area and will not be allowed access,” Ottawa police tweeted. Police will hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon to provide further details of their operations.
As police continue to warn protesters that encampments in downtown Ottawa are illegal, municipal law enforcement officials noted that if protesters with animals in the encampments are unable to care for their pets due to law enforcement by the police, the animal will be placed under protection for eight days at the expense of of the owner.
The University of Ottawa has moved academic activities online until Monday and said it plans to increase campus security.
Blockades at border crossings between the United States and Canada that disrupted traffic and trade have been lifted. But in Ottawa, demonstrators protesting vaccination mandates and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government continue to block city streets.
Official urgency is growing to prevent a fourth weekend of loud protests that authorities have called an illegal occupation.
“We’re going to take back the entire downtown area and all occupied spaces,” Bell told city council Wednesday night.
Officers will enforce a plan to deport anyone who refuses to leave, Bell said. “You will hear and see these actions in the coming days.”
On Wednesday, police handed out leaflets in English and French to protesters telling them to leave or be arrested. They warned that participants convicted of crimes could be barred from entering the United States. They again distributed leaflets to protesters on Thursday morning.
“Today is the day we all feel like we’re going to get arrested,” 23-year-old Justin Aiello said. “We’re okay with this, because it’s for a good cause. … We are going to have a good time in prison.
Aiello, who arrived from Montreal 20 days ago, was sitting in the truck of his region’s “block captain”, who was absent at an organizational meeting, he said. Nearby, a young man was walking around with a walkie-talkie, part of a surveillance team to watch who entered their area and prevent the instigators from planting anything to make them look bad, Aiello said.
Dave Langille, 40, a Toronto farmer, said police left him a $79 ticket, slipped next to a jerry can on his vehicle, which has been illegally parked in Ottawa since Friday.
He said someone had offered him the price of the ticket multiple times to buy it as a souvenir, but he declined, saying he wanted to keep it “as ammunition” and planned to pursue it alongside other drivers with a ticket to keep the government ‘in court for years’.
“Everybody’s already broke,” he said, dismissing the idea that his actions were illegal.
Trudeau on Monday became the first Canadian leader to invoke the country’s Emergency Act, giving authorities more power to regulate protests and track their funding. The moves could set the stage for tougher action to quell the stalemate gripping the city.
In a letter to the country’s premiers, Trudeau wrote that “we are witnessing activities that threaten our democracy and undermine public confidence in our institutions,” Canadian media reported.
He said his law enforcement would be time-limited and targeted at specific locations. Some prime ministers and civil liberties advocates opposed the move.
Speaking in parliament on Thursday, Trudeau said his government was not using the Emergencies Act to deploy the military, suspend basic rights or limit free speech.
“Some protesters have come to Ottawa to express their frustration and fatigue with public health measures. It is their right,” he said. “But illegal blockades and occupations are not. They must stop. »
Officials say the Emergencies Act gives police the power to declare areas, including parliament and critical infrastructure, off-limits to protests that “violate the peace”.
Banks began freezing accounts linked to protesters under the Emergencies Act, after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police provided them with a list of names. Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s finance minister, told a news conference on Thursday that “action is being taken” and the accounts have already been frozen, but declined to give specific numbers.
In a statement to the Washington Post, the Canadian Bankers Association said that “all financial service providers, including banks, covered by the Federal Emergency Measures Act will be required to diligently implement the required measures, as stipulated by the government in the corresponding Emergency Economic Measures Decree, which should not impact the vast majority of customers.
Tow truck drivers are worried about risks to their safety and future jobs if the government asks them to remove the large rigs blocking downtown Ottawa, an industry leader told Reuters on Wednesday. Canadian public radio.
The country’s public security minister has warned of the protesters’ links to far-right groups. Police arrested 11 people and seized firearms and ammunition Monday during a border blockade in Coutts, Alta. Four people have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Some protesters left the site after the arrests to avoid violence.
In a tearful video posted on social media, convoy organizer Tamara Lich said it was “inevitable at this point” that she would face arrest and possibly jail. But she urged people to join them in Ottawa.
“You must know that they are trying to provoke us. … Tomorrow is a new day, and I’m ready. I’m not afraid and we’ll hold on,” she said. “It’s been a really crazy ride. …I just want you to stay strong,”
“I pray that you all find forgiveness in your hearts…even when we don’t understand it.”