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Protesters gather near Ontario legislature as anti-mandate protests continue

Click to play video: 'Trucker convoy protesters gather in Toronto for second straight weekend'
Trucker convoy protesters gather in Toronto for second straight weekend
WATCH: Protesters supporting the trucker convoy movement that has occupied Ottawa and Windsor demonstrated in Toronto for a second consecutive weekend. It comes after the province declared a state of emergency in relation to the ongoing blockades. Brittany Rosen reports – Feb 12, 2022

Hundreds of protesters gathered on the grounds of the Ontario legislature on Saturday, for another round of demonstrations in solidarity with the anti-mandate demonstrations in Ottawa.

By noon on Saturday, crowds had gathered at the park north of Queen’s Park.

Protesters were seen holding Canadian flags and signs reading “freedom.”

 

Click to play video: 'Ontario declares state of emergency amid ongoing protests'
Ontario declares state of emergency amid ongoing protests

Ahead of the protests, police blocked roads in the city’s downtown core.

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In a tweet Saturday, Toronto police said roads were closed in Queen’s Park Circle to the north, Dundas Street West to the south, Bay Street to the east and University Avenue to the west.

The force said all east-to-west traffic would be diverted, except Toronto Transit Commission.

Officers warned the public to expect delays and “consider alternate routes.”

What’s more, in a tweet, police said the road closures had been expanded to include Church Street to the east, Spadina Avenue to the west, Queen Street to the South and Dupont Street to the north.

Protesters gather near Ontario legislature as anti-mandate protests continue - image
Brittany Rosen / Global News

In a tweet Saturday afternoon, police said “for public safety reasons” protesters would not be permitted to transport fuel cans in the city’s downtown area.”

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At around 12: 30 p.m., officers said the Don Valley Parkway South at Richmond Street, and the Gardiner Expressway eastbound at Park Lawn Road were both closed due to the protests.

However, just before 4 p.m., officers said the roads had both been reopened.

“The services’ plans remain fluid and we continue to assess the situation,” police said. “Thank-you for your cooperation.”

The demonstrations, initially aimed at denouncing vaccine mandates for truck drivers crossing the Canada-U.S. border, have since morphed into a protest against a variety of COVID-19 restrictions and the federal government.

Meanwhile, protesters also forced the all ramps of the QEW from Gilmore to Fort Erie Bridge.

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A truck passes Ontario Provincial Police officers and demonstrators in opposition to COVID-19 mandates on the Toronto-bound QEW highway after crossing the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario Saturday, February 12, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

 

On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in the province as protests continued in Ottawa and at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor.

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Ford says he will enact orders making it “crystal clear” that it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure.

This includes protecting international border crossings, 400-series highways, airports, ports, bridges and railways, according to the premier.

Click to play video: 'Trucker protests: Toronto mayor hopes protesters will ‘say their piece and go home’'
Trucker protests: Toronto mayor hopes protesters will ‘say their piece and go home’

The state of emergency will also include protecting the safe and essential movement of ambulatory and medical services, public transit, municipal and provincial roadways and pedestrian walkways.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Toronto Mayor John Tory thanked Ford for declaring the state of emergency, saying it was “extremely clear that it is time for these illegal occupations to end and for people to go home.”

“It’s time, when looked at within the framework of everyone else’s rights and it’s time in terms of the overall well being of our country and our founding mantra — our founding mantra of our country: peace, order and good government,” Tory said.

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At a press conference on Wednesday, Toronto Police Duty Insp. Michael Williams, said the force had developed a “substantial plan” involving several units and that “prioritizes public safety and limits disruptions to the city.”

“Part of that plan includes our ability to scale operations up or down as needed,” he said.

He said the force decided to close the area surrounding Queen’s Park “out of an abundance of caution.”

The area is closed to vehicles, but still open to foot traffic.

Williams said police were preparing and “getting a footprint in place.”

Click to play video: 'Toronto police reviewing new powers under province’s state of emergency'
Toronto police reviewing new powers under province’s state of emergency

He said officers are hoping the demonstrations will be peaceful.

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“Of course, you know, we don’t want to see people shaking police cars, and inching big trucks up towards our members,” Williams said. “We’re certainly not looking for any type of confrontation, but we certainly do have plans in place if there is criminality.”

Last weekend, demonstrators gathered in Queen’s Park and in the park north of the legislature.

Protesters also temporarily blocked an intersection in the city’s downtown core. Two people were arrested as a result, however, the demonstrations were widely deemed to be peaceful.

— with files from Global News’ Aya Al-Hakim

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