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Canada court silences protesters' horns, police seize fuel

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By Reuters
Canada police seen getting tough as trucker protests continue
Canada police seen getting tough as trucker protests continue   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By Anna Mehler Paperny, David Ljunggren and Ismail Shakil

OTTAWA -Police in Canada’s national capital have seized thousands of liters of fuel and removed an oil tanker as part of a crackdown to end days long protest against the government’s health measures, police said on Monday.

Honking has disrupted the normally quiet life of the residents https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/ottawans-fed-up-with-trucker-blockade-blame-police-inaction-2022-02-03 in downtown Ottawa and a judge granted an interim injunction against the noise on Monday.

A “Freedom Convoy” has disrupted life in downtown Ottawa for 11 days now. What started as a movement opposing a Canadian vaccine mandate for cross-border drivers – a requirement mirrored by a U.S. rule – has morphed into a rallying point against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many Canadian governments’ public health measures.

“We are turning up the heat in every way we possibly can,” Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly told reporters, days after he said there may not be a “policing solution” to the occupation.

“We are asking for a major push of resources to come in the next 72 hours.”

While Ottawa awoke to its second week of what its political and policing leaders now describe as a siege, Sloly said on Monday activity has decreased at the blockades.

This weekend, police counted 1,000 trucks and 5,000 protesters, down from 3,000 trucks and 10,000 to 15,000 protesters last weekend, Sloly added.

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Deputy Police Chief Steve Bell told city councillors Monday that police had received “active threats to public figures throughout this occupation,” which they continue to investigate.

Ottawa police have received help from hundreds of officers in other police agencies, but they say it is not enough. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson asked for reinforcements in a letter Monday to Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.

“The occupation has turned into an aggressive and hateful occupation of our neighbourhoods,” he wrote. “People are living in fear and are terrified.” He called the honking “tantamount to psychological warfare.”

The protests, which last week included some Confederate and Nazi flags, have been largely peaceful. A Canadian judge on Monday granted an interim injunction preventing people from sounding horns in downtown Ottawa.

The 10-day injunction is part of a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of downtown Ottawa residents, some of whom have said they feel unsafe in their own neighbourhood.

A short stretch of Metcalfe Street in downtown Ottawa, home to Canada’s parliament, central bank, and buildings including Trudeau’s office, smelled of campfire on Monday. A clustering of trucks, cars and tractors without trailers bore signs deriding everything from vaccines and mandates to Canada’s carbon tax.

One sign showed a poster of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees rights including that of life, liberty and security of the person – subject to “reasonable limits.”

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Packets of water bottles, briquettes and diapers were piled high beside open-sided white tents with tables of food.

There was also evidence of pushback from residents. Small signs in the ground-floor windows of an apartment building a few blocks away said: “GO HOMEMORONS” and “VACCINESSAVELIVES.”

“We cannot allow an angry crowd to reverse the course that continues to save lives in this last stretch. This should never be a precedent for how to make policy in Canada,” Mendicino told reporters on Monday.

Trudeau, who is isolating after testing positive for COVID-19, did not attend the press conference and missed question period in the parliament. Trudeau and his family left their downtown home after truckers started arriving in Ottawa and his location has not been disclosed due to security concerns.

“When will the prime minister stop hiding, show up for Canadians, show some leadership and fix the mess that he’s created?” interim Conservative Party leader Candice Bergen, who has supported the protests, told the House of Commons.

On Sunday night, police began removing gas and fuel supplies at a logistics encampment set up by protesters after the city’s mayor declared a state of emergency https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/protest-against-vaccine-mandates-paralyzing-canada-capital-mayor-says-2022-02-06 on Sunday.

A well-organized supply chain — including portable saunas, a community kitchen and bouncy castles for children — has sustained the protesters. It has relied partly on funding from sympathizers in the United States, police said.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have praised the truckers.

Over the weekend, protests spilled over into other large Canadian cities, including the financial capital Toronto, and were met with counter demonstrations.

Canadians have largely followed government’s health measures and nearly 79% of the eligible population has taken two doses of the vaccine. But recent polls have shown frustrations against restrictions are growing.