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Police regain control of most of Canada’s capital, say protesters will continue to be identified and charged as holdouts persist

But while the large platforms, barbecues and bouncy castles had disappeared, major questions remained about how long the police would stay to prevent the eventual return of protesters, and what consequences the protesters, participants in its far-right organizers, would face three-week illegal blockade.

Police prepared on Sunday for the possible return of more protesters, as well as setting up satellite camps in neighborhoods across Ottawa.

High fences blocked access to Wellington Street, the center of the encampments that obstructed the way past parliament and the prime minister’s office. A small contingent of holdouts remained in downtown Ottawa on Saturday night, staging a street party in defiance of police, who have repeatedly warned that those who remain risk arrest and sentencing. fines.

“We continue to maintain a police presence in and around the area occupied by the illegal protest…to ensure that the ground gained is not lost,” the official said. Ottawa Police tweeted Sunday.

“If you are involved in this protest, we will actively seek to identify you and prosecute you with financial penalties and criminal prosecution,” they said.

Even as Ottawa residents celebrated the start of a return to normalcy, Canada’s Parliament was due to convene on Sunday to debate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act of 1998 Members must vote on Monday to accept or reject the use of special powers authorized by this law.

The law is expected to pass, although critics on the left and right have opposed its widespread use. Trudeau said he had to take the emergency measure because no other effort to crack down on “illegal and dangerous activities” affecting the country’s economy and security was not working.

Under the Emergencies Act, banks can freeze transactions suspected of funding the ‘freedom convoys’ that have crippled Ottawa and obstructed several Canada-US borders, disrupting millions of dollars a day in trade . Drivers of vehicles documented during the protests may also lose their company bank accounts, car insurance and driver’s license.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told CBC/Radio-Canada that he wants to use the Emergencies Act to seize and sell impounded vehicles to pay some of the costs incurred. by the city.

Trudeau said on Saturday that the federal government would provide 20 million Canadian dollars ($15.7 million) to businesses affected by the protests, which authorities have deemed illegal.

Police began moving on Friday, after 20 days of free protests in the capital’s city center. Despite high tensions, the police response remained largely subdued, even by Canadian standards. Armed officers, some on horseback and others in tactical gear, moved slowly truck by truck and block by block to push back the protesters.

Police said they used pepper spray, stun grenades and other riot control weapons. Some detained protesters were carrying bullet-proof vests, smoke grenades and fireworks, police said on Saturday.

The police came under heavy criticism for failing to enforce the laws during the first three weeks of the convoy. Critics noted that the police acted much more quickly and forcefully against other protests, such as those organized by indigenous communities. The majority of participants in the “Freedom Convoy” were white.

Peter Sloly resigned as Ottawa’s police chief on Tuesday under fire for his department’s handling of what he called a “siege” of the capital.

Law enforcement denied that race or politics influenced their response. Rather, they pointed to the tactical difficulties posed by tight rows of vehicles. They estimated that about 100 trucks had children living or associated with them. Highly flammable fuel jerrycans were also circulating through the camps.

Authorities were also unsure if the protesters were armed – and feared that items such as kitchen knives, vehicles and hockey sticks could be used against them while climbing.

Fears grew on February 14, when authorities said they arrested 11 people and seized firearms, body armor and a “large amount of ammunition” in Coutts, Alta., where another convoy was trying to blockade the Canada-US border.

Canada’s public safety minister said Wednesday that some of those arrested in Alberta had “close ties” to a “far-right organization” in Ottawa.

Elizabeth Simons, deputy director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said the group in question was Diagolon, an insurgent movement called to create a nation-state running diagonally from Alaska to the western provinces of Canada and up to to Florida.

The arrests also underscored how the “Freedom Convoy,” which from the outset focused on protesting health mandates and Trudeau’s government, was fueled in part by far-right organizers and influencers with a story of anti-government, anti-science and anti-media. agendas.

Police arrested three key protest organizers – Tamara Lich, 49, Chris Barber, 46 and Patrick King, 44 – on Thursday and Friday. Barber, who has been charged with mischief, obstructing police and disobeying a court order, was released on bail on Friday. According to the conditions, he must leave Ottawa and cannot be in contact with or speak in favor of any of the participants or sponsors of the convoy.

Lich and King are still in jail in Ottawa.

Lich, who is charged with mischief, appeared at a bail hearing on Friday wearing a pro-Canadian oil and gas shirt and a court-mandated face mask. The session was adjourned until Tuesday morning, said Diane Magas, the Ottawa-based lawyer representing Lich and Barber.

Under Canada’s rules, Lich cannot return home to Alberta because she is not vaccinated. During the hearing, Lich’s husband, Dwayne Lich, told the court that he personally had little money but flew to Ottawa on Feb. 2 via a private jet. He said the theft cost around C$5,000 ($3,900), but a man named Joseph, whose last name he could not remember, covered his costs, Magas said.

Mischief is a broad charge that can include significant jail time. Magas said it was “too early” to say what Lich or Barber might face in terms of sentencing.

Lich, Barber and a third early organizer, Benjamin Dichter, who left Ottawa on Friday, are named in a class action lawsuit originally filed by an Ottawa resident seeking C$360 million ($280 million) in damages from the protests .

Jeffrey Monaghan, an associate professor at Carleton University’s Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said the focus of these court cases should “try to build momentum into these movements.”

From a deterrence perspective, he said that when courts decide how to punish convoy organizers and participants, they should consider “some form of leniency” so as to “not make these individuals martyrs and nurture a lot of animosity “.



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