A whole bunch of truckers clogging Canada’s capital stood their ground and defiantly blasted their horns on Thursday.
It got here at the same time as police arrested two protest leaders and threatened to interrupt up the nearly three-week protest against the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Busloads of police arrived near Ottawa’s Parliament Hill and employees put up extra fences around government buildings.
Police also essentially began sealing off much of the downtown area to outsiders to forestall them from coming to assistance from the protesters.
“The motion is imminent,” said interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell. “We absolutely are committed to ending this illegal demonstration.”
Police arrested organisers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber around Parliament Hill, but officers weren’t moving in force on the demonstrators.
Police took Lich into custody late on Thursday.
They continued negotiating with the protesters and trying to steer them to go home, Bell said.
“We wish this demonstration to finish peacefully,” he said, but added: “In the event that they don’t peacefully leave, we’ve got plans.”
Lots of the truckers within the self-styled Freedom Convoy appeared unmoved by days of warnings from police and the federal government that they were risking arrest and will see their rigs seized and bank accounts frozen.
“I’m prepared to sit down on my ass and watch them hit me with pepper spray,” said considered one of their leaders, Pat King. As for the trucks parked bumper-to-bumper, he said: “There aren’t any tow trucks in Canada that may touch them.”
King later told truckers to lock their doors.
Amid the rising tensions, truckers outside parliament blared their horns in defiance of a court injunction against honking, issued for the good thing about neighbourhood residents.
Ottawa represented the movement’s last stronghold after weeks of demonstrations and blockades that shut down border crossings into the US, inflicted economic damage on each countries and created a political crisis for Trudeau.
The protests have shaken Canada’s fame for civility and rule-following and inspired similar convoys in France, Latest Zealand and the Netherlands.
“It’s high time that these illegal and dangerous activities stop,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared in parliament, not removed from where the greater than 300 trucks were parked.
“They’re a threat to our economy and our relationship with trading partners,” he said. “They’re a threat to public safety.”
Ottawa police began locking down a large swath of the downtown area, allowing in just those that live or work there after they go through considered one of greater than 100 checkpoints, the interim chief said.
Police were especially fearful in regards to the children among the many protesters. Bell said police were working with child-welfare agencies to find out find out how to safely remove the children before authorities move in.
Early this week, the prime minister invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act, empowering law enforcement authorities to declare the blockades illegal, tow away trucks, arrest the drivers, suspend their licences and take other measures.
On Thursday, Trudeau and a few of his top ministers took turns warning the protesters to depart, in an apparent move by the federal government to avert a clash, or not less than show it had gone the additional mile to avoid one.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the federal government began freezing truckers’ accounts as threatened. “It is occurring. I do have the numbers in front of me,” she said.
Ottawa police likewise handed out leaflets for the second straight day demanding the truckers end the siege, and likewise helpfully placed notices on vehicles informing owners how and where to select up their trucks in the event that they are towed.
The occupation has infuriated many Ottawa residents.
“We’ve seen people intimidated, harassed and threatened. We’ve seen apartment buildings which have been chained up. We’ve seen fires set within the corridors. Residents are terrorised,” said Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.
The protests by demonstrators in trucks, tractors and motor homes initially focused on Canada’s vaccine requirement for truckers entering the country but soon morphed right into a broader attack on COVID-19 precautions and Trudeau’s government.
The most important, most damaging of the blockades on the border took place on the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit. Before authorities arrested dozens of protesters last weekend and lifted the siege, it disrupted the flow of auto parts between the 2 countries and compelled the industry to curtail production.
The ultimate blockade, in Manitoba, ended peacefully on Wednesday.
The movement has drawn support from right-wing extremists and veterans, a few of them armed — one reason authorities have hesitated to maneuver against them.
Fox News personalities and US conservatives akin to Donald Trump have egged on the protests. Trudeau complained on Thursday that “roughly half of the funding to the barricaders here is coming from the US.”
Some security experts said that dispersing the protest in Ottawa might be tricky and dangerous, with the potential for violence, and that a heavy-handed law enforcement response might be used as propaganda by antigovernment extremists.
Trucks were parked shoulder-to-shoulder downtown, some with tires removed to hamper towing.
“There is just not really a playbook,” said David Carter, a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice and a former police officer. “I do know there are police chiefs within the US this and developing strategic plans and partnerships to administer a protest like this if it should occur of their cities.”
The presence of youngsters also complicated the planning. As a showdown looked as if it would draw near, Canadian Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said: “To those that have children with them, this is not any place for youngsters. Take them home immediately.”