Police increase presence in Ottawa as ‘siege’ crackdown expected | Politics News

Two police buses move through the central core of Canada’s capital as officers warn participants in a nearly three-week blockade they could face ‘severe penalties’ if they do not leave not the area.

A flyer distributed Thursday by the Ottawa Police Service and shared by Canadian journalists on social media, told members of the occupation’s so-called “Freedom Convoy” that they “will face severe penalties under the laws provincial and federal.

This could include arrests and criminal charges, seizure or removal of their vehicles and suspension of their driver’s license, the flyer says.

The apparent reinforcements added to an already heavy security presence in the central area, but there was no immediate sign of movement to clear the protesters.

About 400 vehicles remain involved in what Ottawa residents and political leaders have described as an “occupation” and “siege” of the city’s downtown core.

“We are going to take over the entire city center and all the occupied spaces. We will suppress this illegal demonstration. We will return our city to a state of normalcy,” said Steve Bell, acting chief of the Ottawa Police Service, in a statement late Wednesday.

A large group of Canadian truckers and their supporters descended on Parliament Hill late last month to protest a mandatory vaccination requirement at the Canada-US border. Hundreds of people remained in Ottawa, demanding an end to all COVID-19 restrictions in the country. Others have called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be removed from office.

Blockades at key points along the Canada-US border have also been erected to support the central protest in Ottawa, disrupting traffic and trade between the two countries, but these have been dismantled in recent days. .

Earlier this week, Trudeau invoked an emergency measure for the first time in the country’s history to give his federal government sweeping powers to disperse blockades and protests, and provide support to law enforcement. .

“It is high time that these illegal and dangerous activities cease,” Trudeau said Thursday morning in the House of Commons, where lawmakers were debating the use of the Emergencies Act. The ordinance must be approved by Parliament to remain in place.

“They are a threat to our economy and our relationship with our trading partners,” he said. “They are a threat to public safety.”

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP), criticized Trudeau for his “lack of leadership” during the protests, but said the NDP would support the invocation of the Emergency Act – meaning that it will be approved.

“It should never have come to this,” Singh told parliament on Thursday. “We will withdraw our support if at any time we believe these powers are being misused.”

Meanwhile, protest organizers in Ottawa – including several far-right activists – remained defiant despite increased police presence and use of the Emergencies Act.

Tamara Lich, a prominent fundraiser and convoy organizer, said in a video released by CTV News on Wednesday night, “I’m ready, I’m not afraid, and we’re going to hold on.”

“I’m ready to sit on my ass and watch them hit me with pepper spray,” said another of the leaders, Pat King, known for espousing hateful, white supremacist views online.

Authorities have raised concerns about the potential for violence, as far-right groups are involved in the occupation.

The federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) sent officers to Ottawa, and the public broadcaster Radio-Canada reported Thursday that the province of Quebec was getting ready to provide police.

This week, the RCMP arrested 13 people during a border blockade in the western province of Alberta after seizing a large weapons cache. Four people have also been charged with conspiracy to commit murder after police said the group was “willing to use force against police if attempts were made to disrupt the blockade”.

On Thursday, a poll (PDF) of 1,518 Canadians published by Maru Public Opinion found that 67% believed it was time to weed out protesters, while 82% said there was no way the rally should have lasted as long as it has.

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