Ottawa police are warning “Freedom Convoy” protesters they “could be arrested” if they continue to block city streets.
The warning via a press release titled “Message to Demonstrators from the Ottawa Police Service” comes on the 13th day of the protest, as multiple trucks continue to clog the streets of Ottawa’s downtown core.
“The unlawful act of blocking streets in the downtown core is resulting in people being denied the lawful use, enjoyment and operation of their property,” read a statement from the Ottawa Police, issued on Wednesday.
“We are providing you notice that anyone blocking streets or assisting others in the block of streets may be committing a criminal offence. You must immediately cease further unlawful activity or you may face charges.”
The statement went on to warn that anyone found blocking streets — or helping others to block streets — could be “arrested without a warrant.” Their vehicles could be detained, too, and if the offender is convicted, could be forfeited.
“Charges or convictions related to the unlawful activity associated with the demonstration may lead to denial in crossing the USA border,” the police added.
Ottawa is on Day 13 of the ongoing demonstration, and as the trucks remain firmly parked on downtown streets, residents have become vocal in their complaints. Both in person and on social media, many have shared stories of harassment, lack of sleep and even aggression from the protesters.
To date, cops and bylaw officers have handed out more than 1,300 tickets for traffic violations, made 23 arrests and have 85 active criminal investigations related to the protest.
While the protest began as an expression of truckers’ opposition to a cross-border vaccine mandate, it has since shifted into a much broader expression of discontent with the government — and with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The OPS is continuing to consider different approaches for moving the increasingly hardened protesters. The deputy chief said on Tuesday that all legal options “remain on the table” for ending the protest, but to date, it’s fallen to locals to pursue a court injunction against the demonstration.
In instances where police have moved in on the protesters, they’ve been met with resistance, according to OPS Deputy Chief Steve Bell.
Police attempting to seize fuel downtown were “swarmed” by a group of demonstrators, he said, resulting in minor injuries to some officers.
Meanwhile, as he headed into a caucus meeting Wednesday morning, Trudeau acknowledged that Canadians are “all tired” of the pandemic.
“We’re all frustrated, but we continue to be there for each other,” he said.
“We continue to know that science and public health rules and guidance is the best way through this pandemic, is the way we’re going to get to the other side.”
— with files from Global News’ Craig Lord