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Canada police set for ‘imminent’ action to clear trucker protests

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Police officers stand watch in downtown Ottawa as demonstrators continue to protest vaccine mandates and air other grievances on February 17, 2022

Canadian police were poised Thursday to move against a trucker-led protest that has choked the national capital’s streets for three weeks and finally provoked the government into calling on rarely used emergency powers.

“Action is imminent,” Ottawa police chief Steve Bell told reporters. “I implore anyone that’s there: Get in your truck… and leave our city streets.”

The so-called “Freedom Convoy” started with truckers protesting against mandatory Covid vaccines to cross the US border, but its demands have since grown to include an end to all pandemic health rules and, for many, a wider anti-establishment agenda.

Earlier Thursday, police were deployed in force into the area around the Canadian parliament, where hundreds of big rigs remained parked.

“What I can tell you is this weekend will look very different than the past three weekends,” he added.

In response to critics, he said the Act was not being used to call in the military against the protesters, and denied restricting freedom of expression.

“Illegal blockades and occupations are not peaceful protests,” Trudeau said, adding: “They have to stop.”

The demonstrators had been given an ultimatum late Wednesday by Bell to leave or risk arrest and truck seizures.

Truckers responded by blaring horns through the night and into Thursday. Waving Canadian flags on the ends of hockey sticks, they also chanted, “Freedom!”

“If you can come to Ottawa and stand with us, that would be fantastic,” she said.

Emergency powers have been invoked in Canada only once before, in 1970 by Trudeau’s father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, to crush Quebec separatists who’d kidnapped two officials and set off bombs in Montreal.

“Let me also be clear that we will have zero tolerance for the establishment of new blockades or occupations,” she added after a convoy was stopped late Wednesday from re-occupying the Ambassador Bridge.

In documents filed to the Commons, the government laid out its rationale for invoking the Emergencies Act, saying the trucker convoy has created a critical and urgent situation that cannot be dealt with under any other Canadian laws.

In a letter to provincial premiers, Trudeau decried the protests as “a threat to our democracy.”

They also seized dozens of vehicles, as well as a cache of weapons that included rifles, handguns, body armor and ammunition.

Authorities have also moved to choke off crowdfunding and cryptocurrency transactions supporting the protesters, she said.



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