Crowds at the Okanagan leg of the self-titled Freedom Convoy have started to shrink, RCMP says.
Sgt. Jason Bayda of the Osoyoos RCMP said there were roughly 600 vehicles counted in the Saturday convoy to Osoyoos that opposes pandemic-related health measures. That amounted to somewhere between 1,200 to 2,000 people at their final destination.
Earlier convoys on Feb. 5 and Feb. 12 were larger, by RCMP estimates, with roughly 900 vehicles counted. With more than two people per vehicle the crowds, in turn, were also larger.
While these protests are loud and clog local roads, Bayda said organizers have ensured that they have remained mostly incident-free.
“I would say 99 per cent of people there were peaceful and we didn’t see any criminal acts,” Bayda said.
“There was nothing reported, there were lots (of officers) at the border, including me, for the Saturday event. There were a few people who were not pleased with us, but it was a minor few … and every vehicle that came through, when we asked them to move to let traffic by, they did.”
That displeasure was also extended to reporters on-scene, with one protester spitting on Global anchor and video journalist Yasmin Gandham. Spitting on someone is considered an assault under the Criminal Code of Canada.
Aggressive behaviour toward members of the media has become increasingly common at these protests. While cases in the Vancouver area have triggered investigations, the case in Osoyoos has not moved ahead as of yet, with Bayda saying they are looking for more information.
Regardless, errant behaviour is something the RCMP is going to keep an eye out for as long as the protests carry on.
Bayda said he isn’t sure if there is another protest scheduled for next Saturday but organizers have reached out each week to say what’s happening. They have also asked RCMP for updates to ensure that those participating aren’t breaking laws or behaving erratically.
Whether that outreach will satisfy residents near the border that enough is being done to keep the peace, however, remains to be seen.
“We know area residents are frustrated by the slow vehicles and the noise that’s disturbing their peace,” Bayda said.
He said it is positive that protests occur only “one day a week and only a few hours.”
Demonstrators also met in Vancouver and Chilliwack Saturday morning and travelled in a convoy on Highway 1 to Highway 15 and 8th Avenue, the key entry point to the truck crossing.
RCMP said that as of 8 p.m. Saturday evening, the vast majority of protesters had left, except for a small group at the intersection of 176th and 8th avenue.
At one point, demonstrators became aggressive with media on-site, including Global BC, with police stepping in to ensure reporters could safely access their vehicles.
Mounties later said they had launched an investigation into “a group of aggressive protesters who surrounded members of the media.”
“These kinds of acts of aggression and intimidation towards media, or any member of the public, are simply unacceptable,” RCMP’s Sgt. Elenore Sturko said.
“While it is not always safe for our officers to take immediate enforcement action at the time of the alleged offences based on the size of the crowd of protesters, these incidents will be fully investigated and could lead to subsequent arrests or charges.”
-with files from Simon Little