Four people were arrested for mischief at the Pacific Highway border crossing Sunday, as a blockade by a group opposed to COVID-19 measures continued into a second day, Surrey RCMP said.
Highway 15 remained closed between 1st and 8th Avenue, according to DriveBC, and highway traffic cameras showed access to the route blocked by police vehicles.
Surrey RCMP said Sunday the border crossing was closed an all vehicle access to the border area south of 8th Avenue was suspended.
“Safety is our priority in this situation, this is a very high emotion protest where we want to do as much as we can to try and keep people calm, even as we move forward with arrests,” Surrey RCMP Sgt. Elenore Sturko said.
Police formed a line around 12:30 p.m. and began moving protesters north on Highway 15, away from the border post and toward 4th Avenue.
Once they got just past the duty free store, the push ended with a line of protesters and a line of police facing off with vehicles blocking the roadway.
Sturko estimated there were between 50 and 100 protesters at the site, with numbers fluctuating as people trickled in and out.
“We are obviously wanting to respect people’s rights to protest, but at the same time there is no right to block this critical infrastructure,” she said.
“We are talking with crowds and helping them understand ways in which their voices can still be heard without breaking the law — and for those who continue to make this illegal, and to conduct unsafe and unlawful practices, then we are taking enforcement action.”
Several dozen protesters remained camped out at the scene overnight, and a small cluster of trailers and camper vehicles remained parked in the centre of the highway as of Sunday morning.
Police said Sunday afternoon that some of the vehicles who stayed overnight had since packed up and left the area.
Access to the border has been closed since Saturday, when a vehicle convoy from Chilliwack descended on the border crossing.
Hundreds of people, many draped in Canadian flags, flooded the highway south of 8th Avenue, dancing and periodically breaking out into chants of “freedom” and rounds of the national anthem.
While police had sought to keep access to the border crossing open, by mid-afternoon the highway was closed in both directions.
At one point, a group of vehicles led by what RCMP described as possibly a military surplus truck broke through police barricades, driving over a median southbound on the wrong side of the highway.
On Saturday night, Surrey RCMP described the day’s protests as “mainly peaceful,” but added that the behaviour of the drivers who broke through police lines would “not be tolerated” and was being investigated.
Mounties said they were working with provincial and federal RCMP units and the Canada Border Services Agency to respond to the protest.
Protesters Global News spoke with Saturday expressed a range of grievances, with many expressing anger with ongoing health orders or vaccine mandates.
“I’m here because of these draconian measures and tyrannical government that’s taking away our freedom of choice. Vaccine mandates, all of it is crap. Sick and tired of it for the flu – basically the flu,” said Marian Nundal.
“It should be our choice if we want to be taking a vaccine or anything in our body, and I think the government is overstepping what we elected them for,” added Elizabeth Goody.
“I’ve got kids threatened to lose their jobs, my daughter is a nurse. She (got) the vaccine — it was coercion. She would otherwise not have taken those.”
Yvonne Khun, who said she’d “never been prouder” of Canadians than amid the current wave of anti-mandate protests across the country, said current restrictions were tearing families apart.
“If I don’t get vaccinated here I can’t see my grandson,” she said.
“We all did our part, we went along with it, but enough is enough. We have more deaths, more cases, more people are vaccinated, and what now? How much more are we going to take? … I want my family back, I want everyone to be happy with each other, I am so tired of this, it hurts my heart.”
On Friday, British Columbia reported another 17 COVID-19-related deaths, for a total of 324 fatalities since the start of 2022.
The number of cases in hospital fell to 846 and has been declining steadily since peaking at 1,035 on Feb. 1.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has previously suggested that some restrictions on social gatherings could begin to be lifted gradually by Family Day on Feb. 21.