Freedom Convoy in Canada: Police in Ottawa build more fencing around the city as they prepare to bring the Covid-19 protests to an end

Authorities will employ “lawful techniques” if needed to remove demonstrators from the streets, according to interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell.

“The action is imminent,” he said. “In the past few days, we have been communicating directly with the unlawful protestors. We have told them they must leave, and we have warned them the consequences of disobeying these rules.”

Ottawa police began erecting barriers and fencing throughout the downtown core Thursday in an effort to clear the area of demonstrators, who have used trucks to block city roads and remain defiant amid calls by police to disperse.

The secured area would ensure those seeking entry for an “unlawful reason such as joining a protest cannot enter the downtown core,” according to Bell. With nearly 100 checkpoints, the perimeter encompasses most of Ottawa’s downtown area and is far larger than the protest footprint to date.

Those who live, work or have a lawful reason to be in the area would be allowed access, authorities said.

“We have a very deliberate plan that will be methodical and will take time for us to progress through to be able to completely remove anyone from the core. So what I can tell you is this weekend will look very different from the past three weekends,” Bell added.

“I’ll say it again, we want people to peacefully leave. But I can tell you that if they do not peacefully leave, we have plans, strategies, and tactics to be able to get them to leave,” he added.

Two organizers of the protest have been arrested and charged, an attorney told CNN Thursday.

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“Both Chris Barber and Tamara Lich have been arrested and are being held in jail,” wrote Keith Wilson, a lawyer representing both in legal matters relating to the protest and fundraising.

Barber has been charged with counseling to commit mischief, obstruction, and counseling to commit obstruction, Wilson said, and Lich has been charged with counseling to commit mischief.

Video posted on social media shows Lich interacting with a police officer, then being handcuffed and led away to a police cruiser.

Ottawa police would not confirm the arrests and said an update would be provided Friday. CNN attempted to contact other Freedom Convoy organizers but did not receive a reply.

Lich has encouraging protesters to convene in Ottawa, and recently called for supporters to continue their protest despite it being declared unlawful. She created a GoFundMe campaign for the “Freedom Convoy” which raised millions of dollars before it was suspended by the platform.
The convoy first arrived in Ottawa on January 29 to express their disapproval of a vaccine mandate to enter the country or face testing requirements. Over the course of more than two weeks, the protest has since spiraled into a wider grievance against any and all Covid-19 measures, including mask wearing and vaccinations.
Police officers gather on a street during a protest over pandemic health rules outside the parliament of Canada in Ottawa on February 17, 2022.

Trudeau defends call for emergency powers

Amid opposition in Parliament, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his decision to invoke emergency powers to put an end to the demonstrations during an address Thursday to legislators.

Officials have said a primary aim of invoking the Emergencies Act is to stifle funding to the demonstrators in Ottawa.

“These illegal blockades are being heavily supported by individuals in the United States and from elsewhere around the world,” Trudeau said. “We see that roughly half of the funding that is flowing to the barricaders here is coming from the United States. The goal of all measures, including financial measures in the Emergencies Act, is to deal with the current threat only, and to get the situation fully under control.”

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The act, passed in 1988 and never utilized before, can temporarily suspend citizens’ rights to free movement or assembly. It can also provide for the use of the military, but Trudeau has said this would not be necessary.

“We did it to protect families and small businesses. To protect jobs and the economy. We did it because the situation could not be dealt with under any other law in Canada,” Trudeau said. “For the good of all Canadians, the illegal blockades and occupations have to stop, and the borders have to remain open.”

Border crossing blockades in Alberta and Ontario came to an end this week, with arrests being made as police cleared the areas. Four individuals have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder at the blockade at Coutts, Alberta, and multiple weapons and rounds of ammunition were seized.
Another blockade in Manitoba ended without incident, authorities said. The port of entry connecting Surrey, British Columbia to Blaine, Washington has also been reopened.
Candice Bergen, interim leader of the Conservative Party, said Wednesday the party won’t be supporting a motion by the federal government to fully utilize those powers, according to CNN newsgathering partner CTV.

“The first act that he does when he has a chance to do something — he doesn’t go through step one, two, three — he goes straight to 100 and invokes the Emergencies Act,” Bergen told CTV News. “I don’t think anything that we will see will change our mind, we will be opposing it.”

The government must propose a motion in both the House and Senate explaining why federal officials need the powers and specifying what actions will be taken, then both the House and Senate must confirm the motions, according to CTV.

The federal government will work with premiers across the country “until the situation is resolved,” Trudeau said.

“Like I said on Monday, the scope of the Emergencies Act is time-limited and targeted as well as reasonable and portioned. It strengthens and supports law enforcement agencies, so they have more tools to restore order and protect critical infrastructure.”

CNN’s Raja Razek, Chris Boyette, Amir Vera and Jenn Selva contributed to this report.

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