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Convoy of truck drivers: police make arrests in Ottawa

Large numbers of police move towards protesters in downtown Ottawa and make arrests in an intense clash with protesters who have so far refused to leave the area.

Ottawa police have formally charged two organizers of the so-called “freedom convoy” as police step up efforts to arrest protesters who have been camping in the city’s downtown core for weeks and tow their vehicles away.

CTV News has learned that dozens of arrests were made and 10 other vehicles were towed on Friday morning, the police operation possibly lasting several days.

Christopher John Barber, 46, of Swift Current, Sask., who was arrested by police on Thursday evening, has been charged with counseling to commit the offense of mischief, counseling to commit the offense of disobeying a court order and counseling to commit the offense of obstructing the police. .

Fellow organizer Tamara Lich, 49, of Medicine Hat, Alta., is also charged with counseling the mischief offence.

Both are due in court today. The charges against them have not been proven in court.

Barber and Lich are among several people arrested Thursday night. Organizer Pat King previously confirmed Barber’s arrest, while a lawyer representing some of the organizers said on Twitter that Lich had been detained.

King asks protesters to march to Parliament Hill and trucks to jackknife in front of tow trucks. He also threatened to find out which companies the drivers belong to, accusing the drivers of “professional suicide”.

Ottawa Police say on social media that there is a heavy police presence on Nicholas Streeteast of Parliament Hill near the University of Ottawa.

Police are advising protesters to leave immediately. Some surrender and are arrested, authorities said.

“We ask protesters to remain peaceful and lawful,” the Ottawa Police social media post said.

Reporters on the ground also saw police making arrests in the city.

Ottawa police also say another effort to flood their 911 and non-emergency reporting lines has occurred. Police reported a similar effort last week.

Despite attempts by the police warn protesters of potential arrests if they stay in the city’s downtown area, many have vowed to stay and, as some organizers have suggested, “hold the line”.

Promising a very different weekend for Ottawa residents, police appeared to take a stronger approach events in the city center, setting up more than 100 checkpoints and only allow entry to people who work, live or have a “lawful reason” to be there. Workers also installed fencing around parliament on Thursday.

The arrests began hours after Acting Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell, who replaced former police chief Peter Sloly this week, warned that action to evict protesters was ‘imminent’ .

Police and government officials have often called the protests an illegal “occupation.”

“We want to end this illegal protest peacefully and safely,” Bell said.

He previously said that some of the techniques police are prepared to use “are not the ones we’re used to seeing in Ottawa.”

Officers from across Ontario and Quebec, as well as the RCMP, joined Ottawa police in an attempt to put down the protests.

The latest warnings and arrests come following the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act on Monday, the first time it has been used since it came into force in 1988.

Under the law, police say anyone who comes to Ottawa to join the protests is breaking the law.

Powers granted under the law include banning public gatherings deemed illegal and the ability to freeze protesters’ bank accounts without a court order.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, arguing the measures are unconstitutional.

The House of Commons began debating the government’s use of the Emergencies Act on Thursday.

While the powers granted by the law are in effect, the House and Senate must confirm the decision to use the legislation.

The Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois said they would not support it, while the NDP said it would.

Although some protesters called for the Liberal government to be ousted, even offering to work with opposition parties to make this happen, none of the opposition parties showed any signs that they would consider it.

Although the House was scheduled to continue debate on the Emergencies Act today, a memo from House Speaker Anthony Rota says the scheduled sitting was canceled due to a police operation which is expected to take place near the Hill and other downtown areas.

Government House Leader Mark Holland said in a statement that the parties hoped the House could reopen on Saturday for further debate, with a final vote early next week.

The Senate also issued a notice saying it will remain adjourned until Monday at 2 p.m. local time.

The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa has urged parents involved in the protests to make “necessary alternative custody arrangements” if they are separated from their children, as the Emergencies Act prohibits children to participate in demonstrations. Ottawa police have previously estimated that about a quarter of vehicles parked downtown were carrying children.

The aid society said on Friday morning that it had not had to intervene in a situation involving a child linked to the protest.

A proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of some Ottawa residents and businesses escalated on Thursday, with plaintiffs now asking $306 million truckers, donors and others.

Henry Assad, president and CEO of Happy Goat Coffee Co. in Ottawa, which was recently added as a plaintiff to the lawsuit, told CTV Your Morning on Friday that the arrests have been overdue for at least two weeks.

“I’m glad to see things are going and I hope it ends peacefully for everyone, and everyone gets back to normal soon,” he said.

“I just hope everything goes as planned by the police and calmly.”

Zexi Li, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, told CTV News Channel on Friday that while photographing license plates, a person tried to back a pickup truck towards her.

Li was credited with helping secure a court injunction to temporarily stop downtown truck horns. Many protesters continued to honk tirelessly.

“A lot of us were living in fear, but I think at this point the anger and the rage and the frustration with the situation boiled over to the point where, you know what, we’re going to push back and we’re going to push back legally,” she said.

“We will push back democratically and we will push back as a community.”

Police officers enter a blockade protest truck parked in downtown Ottawa, Feb. 18, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston


Elsewhere in the country, authorities are preparing for continued protests in their communities, with protesters in the Maritimes planning more convoys and rallies this weekend.

RCMP in Saskatchewan will be monitoring the province’s international border crossings with the United States in response to protests expected this weekend.

Quebec City is preparing for a protest this weekend. Some demonstrators continued to demonstrate outside the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg.

Protests and blockades at or near border crossings in Windsor, Ontario; Emerson, Man.; Coutts, AB; and Surrey, British Columbia have come to an end.

Police have made several arrests in Windsor and Surrey. On Wednesday, officers also intercepted a suspected convoy heading for the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor.

In Coutts’ case, police seized a cache of arms and ammunition from a small group involved in the larger protest and charged four people with conspiracy to commit murder. Equipment seized from some of those arrested bore patches displaying a symbol of the far-right group Diagolon.

With files from CTV News and The Canadian Press

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