OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Ottawa police trying to break the nearly three-week siege of the capital by truckers protesting Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions began handing out leaflets this morning warning drivers to leave immediately or risk arrest.
Authorities in yellow “police liaison” vests went from truck to truck, knocking on the doors of the rigs parked outside the Parliament building, to inform drivers they could lose their licenses and see their vehicles seized under Canada’s Emergencies Act if they don’t move.
Police also began ticketing vehicles.
Some truckers ripped up the order, and one protester shouted, “I will never go home!” At least one trucker pulled away from Parliament Hill.
The warnings came just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the emergency law, which gave authorities power to ban the blockades and tow away the trucks.
Since late January, protesters in trucks and other vehicles have jammed the streets of the capital and obstructed border crossings, decrying vaccine mandates for truckers and other COVID-19 precautions and condemning Trudeau’s Liberal government.
In Ottawa, the bumper-to-bumper demonstrations by the so-called Freedom Convoy have infuriated many residents, who have complained of being harassed and intimidated on the clogged streets.
Police in Ottawa were optimistic they could gain control in the coming days after Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Monday.
Over the past weeks, authorities have hesitated to move against the protesters, citing in some cases a lack of manpower and fears of violence. Trudeau’s decision came amid growing frustration with government inaction.
Interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell said Tuesday he believes authorities have reached a turning point: “I believe we now have the resources and partners to put a safe end to this occupation.”
But protesters in the capital appeared to be entrenched. On Tuesday, Ottawa board said 360 vehicles remained involved in the blockade in the city’s core, down from a high of roughly 4,000.
“They don’t want to give this up because this is their last stand, their last main hub,” said Michael Kempa, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa.
Police in the capital appeared to be following the playbook that authorities used over the weekend to break the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit. Police there handed out leaflets informing protesters they risked arrest. After the protest had dwindled, police moved in and made dozens of arrests.
Meanwhile, just one blockade remained at the U.S. border after several convoys moved out earlier this week.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they were confident protesters obstructing the border crossing at Emerson, Manitoba, opposite North Dakota, soon would be leaving and gone by today.
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