“We will run this operation 24 hours a day until the residents and community have their entire city back,” interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell said Friday.
Amid honking, the beat of a drum and the sound of a plastic trumpet, protesters on Friday yelled “shame on you,” “hold the line” and “this is our tax money at work” at the police forming a barrier in front of them.
As their numbers dwindled early Saturday, some protesters shoveled snow to form barricades to make it harder for police to move in. Law enforcement officers armed with batons and guns, some on horseback, appeared to advance at a faster pace than the day before.
“We told you to leave,” the Ottawa police said in a tweet Saturday. “We gave you time to leave. We were slow and methodical, yet you were assaultive and aggressive with officers and the horses.”
The Canadian Parliament is set to resume debate Saturday over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial invocation Monday of the never-before-used 1988 Emergencies Act, which gives the government broad powers for up to 30 days. Parliament must vote within seven days of the act’s invocation to approve or reject it.
Under the Emergencies Act, banks must freeze assets suspected of being used to fund the convoy and can suspend the insurance and business accounts connected to vehicles found here. Police have distributed thousands of dollars worth of fines to drivers, several of whom told The Post they did not expect to pay and would litigate in court.
Policy say they can retroactively fine or charge people documented to be violating laws.
Use of the act is expected to be approved, though the move has drawn criticism from both the left and the right.
On Thursday, police set up about a hundred checkpoints and other road closures in Ottawa’s downtown to keep out protester reinforcements.
With so many moving parts — the presence of children, the possibility of violence, the tightly packed vehicles and combustible fuel — the police have taken a largely restrained approach, even by Canadian standards. Police officers, some in tactical gear, have continued to leave open exits for demonstrators and drivers who decide to leave.
“You must leave,” a police recording repeatedly told a crowd Friday as a drone circled above. “You will be arrested.”
Among those arrested are three key convoy organizers — Alberta separatist Tamara Lich, far-right agitator Chris Barber, and Pat King, who said “bullets” were the only way to end health mandates. Another key influencer, former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer Daniel Bulford, turned himself in Friday.
Barber was released on bail late Friday on the condition he leave Ottawa and not contact or finance the convoy, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Lich is set to appear in court Saturday on charges of counseling to promote mischief.
Lich, Barber, and a third organizer, Benjamin Dichter, who left Ottawa Friday, are named in a class-action lawsuit filed by Ottawa resident Zexi Li, 21, over damages caused by the demonstrations.
While protesters held block parties the past three weekends as police stood by, many Ottawa residents complained of being harassed and intimidated by some demonstrators and being unable to sleep or work amid incessant honking and blocked streets.
Peter Sloly resigned as Ottawa’s police chief on Tuesday after heavy criticism of his department’s handling of the unrest.
Some protesters have demanded an end to all pandemic-related mandates. Others said they wanted Trudeau ousted or tried in court. The convoys in Canada, which have also targeted and shut down border crossings, have inspired copycats in European capitals.
But Stephanie Carvin, an associate professor of international relations at Carleton University in Ottawa, said it was not “a movement driven by truckers frustrated by mandates.”
“It is a movement of anti-government extremists that have successfully tapped into the exhaustion of a lot of Canadians who are frustrated after four lockdowns and going onto year three of this [pandemic],” she said. “They were able to frame their grievances around this issue.”
“The success of this movement will depend on its ability to frame itself around the new issue that attracts a lot of support,” she added.
Police on Friday afternoon said that one officer had been lightly injured.
Later in the evening, a video circulated of a police horse barreling into a line of protesters, several of whom appeared to fall on the ground. Police said a bicycle was thrown at the horse and that to their knowledge anyone who fell walked away uninjured. Convoy supporters disputed that account. In addition, false rumors spread online that someone had died in the incident.
After days of defiance, protesters have largely not prevented members of the convoy from leaving. Though the message is: We will be back.
Andreas Alexopoulos, 25, left town Thursday, he said, for an appointment back home in Montreal after 16 days in his car.
By Friday he said he was planning to head back once he received the address of a temporary site being set up outside the city until the convoy could return to Ottawa.
“We think it’s a temporary thing,” he said of the arrests. “We don’t think they will do it for long.”