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Trudeau says protests, blockades could return after police clear Ottawa’s core

Most roadways once choked with trucks and protesters have since been cleared
Police work a check-point after authorities took action to clear a trucker protest that was aimed at COVID-19 measures before growing into a broader anti-government protest and occupation, in Ottawa, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. Ottawa police are reassuring businesses in parts of the city’s downtown core that they should feel safe to reopen their doors if they had closed them during a protest that has disrupted local life for weeks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

The federal government remains on guard to the possibility that trucks and protesters could return to the national capital after police spent the weekend arresting and dispersing blockades on Ottawa’s streets, the prime minister says.

Downtown was eerily quiet Monday morning after weeks of overwhelming noise from honking horns, idling engines and large crowds protesting the the Liberal government, vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.

Still, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is worried about blockades reforming in Ottawa and at Canada’s ports of entry.

“Even though the blockades are lifted across border openings right now, even though things seem to be resolving very well in Ottawa, this state of emergency is not over,” Trudeau said at late morning press briefing.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said a number of people associated with the Ottawa protest were in the area Monday. Trudeau added that a convoy from Fort McMurray, Alta. en route to Ottawa was turned away at the Manitoba border a few days ago.

“The situation is still of people repositioning, people being out there indicating that they are ready to blockade, to continue their illegal occupation to disrupt Canadians’ lives,” Trudeau said.

Fences surrounded the parliamentary precinct and roughly 100 police checkpoints checkered a large swath of the core to prevent demonstrators from infiltrating the former protest zone.

As the prime minister spoke, parliamentarians debated whether to approve extraordinary powers granted to police to quell the Ottawa protest.

The House of Commons is set to vote on the use of the Emergencies Act Monday evening, and some Conservatives argue the powers are no longer needed because the blockades are over.

Among the measures is one that allows banks to freeze accounts of those linked to the funding of the protests in Ottawa and elsewhere.

The RCMP said it provided banks with a list of names of influencers in the Ottawa demonstration and people who did not want to move their vehicles out of the area, but not anyone who donated to the protest, the service said.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said anyone affected has an easy avenue to have their accounts unfrozen: “Stop being a part of the blockades,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ottawa police have told businesses that closed their doors during the three-week demonstration that they should feel safe to reopen despite the checkpoints and ban on foot traffic in some areas of the core.

Most roadways once choked with trucks and protesters have since been cleared, though some debris the demonstrators left behind still needed to be cleaned up.

Interim police chief Steve Bell said Sunday that 191 people connected to the so-called Freedom Convoy protest had been arrested, with 107 of them facing a total of 389 charges.

Nearly 100 protester vehicles have been towed, including 20 that were removed from a site outside the core that demonstrators allegedly used as a base camp. Police promised officers would remain there to prevent anyone from returning to the site.

On Monday, the site was still littered with generators, chairs, tables, hay bales, and other debris abandoned around an otherwise empty shack, which flew a Canadian flag and a Fleur-de-lis, and was adorned with handwritten signs of all types.

READ MORE: MPs to vote tonight on government’s decision to invoke Emergencies Act for blockades


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Laura Osman, Lee Berthiaume and Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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