OTTAWA—As police in Ottawa escalated operations for the second day in a row against the trucker protest opposed to the government’s COVD-19 mandates, a spokesperson for the movement, dubbed “Freedom Convoy,” called for a peaceful withdrawal, saying they are not going to be a “punching bag for law enforcement.”
Speaking at a press conference at the Lord Elgin Hotel in downtown Ottawa on Feb. 19, retired Canadian military officer Tom Marazzo said many truckers feel that the best course of action for them and their families is to withdraw in order to avoid further harm.
“As a movement, we have chosen to peacefully withdraw from the streets of Ottawa. There is nothing to be gained by being brutalized by police,” Marazzo said.
Police began escalating their operation against the protesters in Ottawa on Feb. 18, announcing mid-morning Feb. 20 that they have thus far made 191 arrests and had 57 vehicles towed away. Mounted police and officers on foot advanced on demonstrators, with horses knocking down protesters in some instances.
Some police officers were heavily armed, including with assault rifles and what appeared to be rubber bullet launchers. Some wielded batons and pepper spray, while some smashed truck windows to remove truckers from their vehicles.
“It’s a dark day in our history,” Marazzo said. “Never in life would I believe anyone if they told me that our prime minister would refuse dialogue and choose violence against peaceful protesters.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has continued to refuse to meet with the organizers of the trucker convoy, which arrived in Ottawa on Jan. 28 and 29.
The convoy began as a protest by truck drivers opposed to the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for their cross-border travel. It turned into a much larger movement after many Canadians from across the country began joining in or voicing their support for ending the various COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
Prior to the convoy’s arrival in Ottawa, at a press conference on Jan. 26 Trudeau dismissed the protesters as a “small fringe minority … who are holding unacceptable views.”
On Feb. 14, Trudeau became the first prime minister in Canada to invoke the Emergencies Act, aiming to use it as a means to quash the protest in Ottawa and similar ones in other parts of the country.
“The Emergencies Act will be used to strengthen and support law enforcement agencies at all levels across the country. This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs, and restoring confidence in our institutions,” Trudeau said at a press conference on Feb. 14.
“The police will be given more tools to restore order in places where public assemblies can constitute illegal and dangerous activities such as blockades and occupations as seen in Ottawa, Ambassador Bridge, and elsewhere.”
Ottawa police called the protest in Ottawa “unlawful.”
Several of the Freedom Convoy organizers have been arrested, including Chris Barber and Tamara Lich on Feb. 17. Daniel Bulford, a former RCMP officer who was coordinating security for the protest, was arrested on Feb. 18 and later released without charge.
Marazzo, who isn’t aware whether there is a warrant for his arrest, said the protest in Ottawa has not engaged in any illegal activity.
“There was no damage. There was a little inconvenient noise, I’m sorry, but we’re here fighting for all the people that actually hate us too,” he said.
The retired officer criticized what he described as the “mainstream media” that has portrayed the protesters as being “anti-government,” noting that the convoy organizers have been trying to establish a dialogue with the federal government but have had no success.
“I want to be very clear that our intent has always been, and always will be, to talk to the official government of Canada,” he said. “I have stood at this podium, I have done other media events where I have outlined a plan, and I’ve said ‘I would like to talk to you.’”
“The response was, riot police—no discussion, no dialogue.”
During a press conference on Feb. 17, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino diverted his reply when a Francophone reporter asked whether the government has received intelligence that weapons were being brought to Ottawa or were already in Ottawa with the convoy, something the minister had been “insinuating for days,” according to the reporter
“I am not saying that there is an intelligence saying there are weapons in Ottawa,” Mendicino said. “There are public reports showing that there are indications that there [are] extremist ideological positions and there is a link between the blockades.”
He added that “there is a similarity in the rhetoric emerging in social media and elsewhere.”
At another press conference on Feb. 17, Bruce Pardy, law professor and executive director of Rights Probe, said Mendicino’s reply meant that the basis for the government’s actions was “rhetoric.”
“This is a government that has invoked an emergency statute on its own admission on the basis of something that somebody has said,” Pardy said. “They have no actual violence occurring. They have no intelligence about threats of violence occurring.”
Marazzo said the attempt by the federal government to “intimidate” the Freedom Convoy is futile as it is a grassroots movement, which if removed, “others will fill their roles.”
“You could say that we inspired people to actually take action, but we certainly were not giving any direction,” he said. “These movements are just organic. They pop up where people want to get up and do something because they’re fed up after two years of being treated like this.”
Marazzo said legal counsel and support for those injured and those being arrested by police is currently being organized. He added that “the truckers will be initiating a charter challenge seeking to have the court strike down the unconstitutional vaccine mandates that discriminate against us all.”
“I never thought I’d see the day when law enforcement officers would be arresting citizens for the crime of exercising their charter rights and freedoms to free assembly and free speech,” he said.
Marazzo also confirmed that his bank account has been frozen and credit cards cancelled. His spouse’s credit score also dropped 109 points on Feb. 18 even though she was not with him in Ottawa, he said.
At a press conference on Feb. 14, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that under the Emergencies Act, the government has authorized banks to cut off services to both individuals and business clients who they suspect are aiding the blockades.
In a media briefing on Feb. 19, Interim Chief Steve Bell of the Ottawa Police Service said the Ottawa police will pursue the protesters even after the protest is over.
“If you are involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges. Absolutely. This investigation will go on for months to come,” he said.
Marazzo said the grassroots movement will regroup and plan their next move. “This is one battle in a larger war for our freedoms,” he said.
He added that all members of Parliament at the federal level have “failed us.”
“We elected these people to represent our best interest, but not to lord over us like kings and queens,” he said.
“Can you hear democracy? Democracy is dead now. It rings louder than the truckers’ horns.”
Limin Zhou and Noé Chartier contributed to this report.
The CBC reported that Sloly resigned due to accusations of bullying and volatile behaviour. The police chief made a public announcement later Tuesday.
“It has been a difficult journey, but I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished,” said Sloly in a statement.
“Since the onset of this demonstration, I have done everything possible to keep this city safe and put an end to this unprecedented and unforeseeable crisis,” he said.
Last week, Sloly said that there was “absolutely [no]” plans to resign as police chief, telling Newstalk 580 CFRA that he “came here to do a job.”
“I came here to do a job and I’m going to get that job done all the way through,” he said, according to CTV News. “Absolutely committed, have a great team here, great officers, we’ve got great partners in the city. We’re going to get this done.”
Sloly was chief of police with the Ottawa Police Service since October 28, 2019
The police chief was criticized last week by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms’ John Carpay, who highlighted the police force’s efforts to work with GoFundMe to remove funds from the Freedom Convoy truckers.
“Chief Sloly publicly accuses the truckers of engaging in ‘unlawful’ and ‘harmful’ activities, and of promoting ‘hatred’ and ‘violence,'” but provides no examples, facts, or arrests to support his accusations,” wrote Carpay.
“The Chief calls for ‘order’ to be ‘restored’ even though ‘order’ has not been lost. His fact-free rhetoric includes mention of an ‘increasingly volatile’ and ‘increasingly dangerous situation’. As though speaking for an oppressive regime, Chief Sloly has repeatedly called for an ‘end’ to the exercise of the fundamental Charter freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly by Canadians in their own capital city,” he wrote.
An Ottawa Police Staff Sargent is resigning effectively immediately, likely over political leadership’s mishandling of the Freedom Convoy protests.
“The National Telegraph has just gotten word from a source inside the Ottawa Police that one of their staff sergeants has resigned from his position today, likely over a disagreement with the city’s policing philosophy towards the Freedom Convoy,” the National Telegraph reported.
“This is a major development for the Ottawa police as senior NCOs are the core of any police force and enforcing anything without their leadership is extremely difficult,” the report added.
“The source also said that there are unusually high rates of uniformed officers taking stress leave, vacation days, and sick days,” the report noted.
“This is another indicator that people inside the police force are not happy with the directions they are receiving from their political leaders,” the National Telegraph added.
Justin Trudeau’s failed leadership is collapsing as even Liberal MPs are defecting to the anti-mandate side.
Canadian provinces are beginning to revolt and ending their vaccine and mask mandates. Justin Trudeau’s coalition in the Canadian parliament is even showing signs of crumbling, as a Liberal MP is announcing his defection from the pro-mandate side.
“Liberal MP for Louis-Hébert (a suburb of Quebec City) Joël Lightbound came out today and held a press conference about what he called the ‘politicization of the pandemic’,” the National Telegraph reported.
“At this press event, Lightbound explained that he would not engage in ‘these easy and absurd labels’ to smear protesters and believes the truckers and their supporters have legitimate concerns,” he added.
Lightbound explained at his press conference that over half of Canadians want the vaccine mandates and passports lifted.
Another Member of Parliament, a conservative in the House of Commons from Manitoba named Raquel Dancho, laid into Trudeau in an impassioned speech for being so far behind other advanced countries in concluding that authoritarian Covid policies don’t work. Watch:
“There are millions of Canadians, millions of them that have been deeply ostracized from society,” Dancho said. “And when you don’t listen to those people, they mobilize. And we’ve seen protests across this country for over a century and rightfully so, we have the right to peacefully protest. And I would ask the protesters outside that they do their best and stay vigilant, to stay peaceful.”
“But we are seeing other governments around the world step up with lower vaccination rates and say, ‘Look, we hear you, you’ve been traumatized. We’re moving forward. Here’s the deadline, this is the plan. No more mandates, no more masks, no more distancing. You can travel, you can live your life, you can hug each other again. Here’s the date. This is the plan. Here’s the thresholds,” she added.
“None of that in Canada. Absolutely none of that from the Prime Minister,” she went on.
“People have been traumatized and they’re mobilizing because they need some hope, they need somebody in this house of privilege to come down from our ivory towers and say, ‘Okay, little people, we hear you. So sorry we’ve traumatized you for two years. We’re gonna step up and we’re gonna give you some hope. Here’s a deadline.’ The member opposite is laughing,” she noted.
“The people in this house are incredibly privileged,” Dancho added. “You’ve kept — pardon me, that member has kept his job. Thousands of Canadians have lost their job. And he’s laughing about his privilege, his own privilege. What has he done to serve members that are marginalized during this pandemic in his community, Mr. Speaker, but laugh at them in this House of Commons? Shame on that member.”
“I would ask this government to do everything they can, I asked them this two years ago in the House, go to other countries, see what they’re doing, what are the best practices,” she went on. “How is it that other highly advanced, developed nations like the U.K., Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, how — the United States, how is it that they have all the same tools we have, they have all the economic resources we have, they’ve done — their citizens have done all the work and made all the sacrifices. Why is it that those citizens get a plan for hope of when we get back to normal, when we get our lives back, when the people outside — you think they want to be here, Mr. Speaker?”
“Those people don’t want to be here,” she said. “They want to be working. But that right was taken away from them. When is there going to be a plan from this prime minister? When is there going to be compassionate leadership to say, ‘This is it. You’ve done the work. Here’s the tools. We’re moving forward.’ Our public health doctors have told us as well, it’s time to move forward, it’s time to revisit these harsh mandates and divisive policies.”
“Mr. Speaker, I will just end on this and — I’m very passionate about this, I think we all are from our different perspectives, but I will say, I will continue to be a bridge builder to reach out, to try to understand where others are coming from, and I would — I would — it would just be incredible if we could see members of the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister, do the same,” she concluded. “Time to build a bridge, Mr. Speaker.”
Far from being a bridge builder, Justin Trudeau had made incendiary statements and threatened the Freedom Convoy with state force if they did not end their peaceful protests.
“Individuals are trying to blockade our economy, our democracy, and our fellow citizens’ daily lives,” Trudeau said. “It has to stop.”
Trudeau also shows no willingness to lift the vaccine mandates, signaling ominously that they are preventing more coercive measures.
“I can understand frustrations with mandates, but mandates are the way to avoid further restrictions,” he stated.
Trudeau is only just beginning to understand people’s frustrations as both police and politicians defect around him.
Ottawa police have warned supporters of the Freedom Convoy that anyone helping the truckers protesting vaccine mandates could be arrested.
The warning came in a Twitter post issued shortly before 2 p.m. Eastern time that declared: “IMPORTANT: Anyone attempting to bring material supports (gas, etc.) to the demonstrators could be subject to arrest. Enforcement is underway.”
Earlier Sunday, Ottawa police announced via Twitter that more than 450 tickets had been issued since Saturday morning as part of an effort to “reduce the impacts of demonstrators in the downtown core.”
“Overnight, demonstrators exhibited extremely disruptive and unlawful behavior, which presented risks to public safety and unacceptable distress for Ottawa residents,” police said in a statement, according to The Washington Post.
An estimated 500 vehicles remain in Ottawa, according to Fox News. The Freedom Convoy, which began in British Columbia, was developed as a protest against vaccine mandates. Organizers have not said when the protest will end.
“Let me assure the people of Ottawa that we have no intent to stay one day longer than necessary,” Tamara Lich, one of the convoy’s organizers, told reporters last week, according to the Post. “Our departure will be based on the prime minister doing what is right: Ending all mandates and restrictions on our freedoms.”
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly called the protest “a siege.”
“It is something that is different in our democracy than I’ve ever experienced in my life,” he said Saturday, according to the Post.
“The demonstrators … remain highly organized, well-funded, extremely committed to resisting all attempts to end the demonstrations safely. This remains, as it was from the beginning, an increasingly volatile and increasingly dangerous demonstration.”
A report in the Ottawa Citizen said that Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that policing the protest “is a responsibility carried out by local police services across Ontario, who have the resources and authority to ensure their communities remain safe. Politicians at all levels cannot direct the police. To be clear: police services, including the Ottawa Police Service, have full discretion and extensive existing legislative authority under the Criminal Code to respond to and manage demonstrations and take enforcement action, as appropriate, against any individuals committing crimes in their jurisdiction.”
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson felt differently about the protest.
“The situation at this point is completely out of control, because the individuals with the protest are calling the shots,” he said in a radio interview Sunday, according to the Ottawa Citizen. “They have far more people than we have police officers, and I’ve indicated to the chief that we have to be much more nimble and proactive when it comes to these activities.”
Former President Donald Trump on Friday issued a statement in support of the truckers.
“The Freedom Convoy is peacefully protesting the harsh policies of far-left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates,” Trump said in his statement.
The statement scolded efforts to block a similar convoy in America from using social media to organize. On Wednesday, Facebook removed the personal account of a man organizing a “Convoy to D.C. 2022,” according to Fox News.
“Now, thankfully, the Freedom Convoy could be coming to DC with American Truckers who want to protest Biden’s ridiculous Covid policies. Facebook is canceling the accounts of Freedom Convoy USA, and GoFundMe is denying access to funds that belong to the Freedom Convoy. This is unacceptable and extremely dangerous in any country that values free expression,” Trump’s statement said.
The Trucker Freedom Convoy to Ottawa Canada entered its second day today, with no signs that things were slowing down. As I have periodically checked in to live streaming throughout the day, I have heard people on the ground in Ottawa state things like: “They think we’re all going home now, but we’re just getting started!”
There was a stage set up in downtown Ottawa this morning where local pastors and others took turns addressing the crowds. The protests have been remarkably peaceful, so far, given the size of the crowds, which even the corporate media admits is in the “thousands” but is probably in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. Some people on the ground are estimating up to 2 million.
And yet, the corporate media continues to characterize the protesters as “radicals” and “domestic terrorists” even suggesting that “Russian actors” are probably fueling the protests.
Justin Trudeau and his family have allegedly been removed from their home due to “security concerns.” (Source)
In some positive news, Scott Moe, the Premier of Saskatchewan, a Canadian province that borders the US, called for an end to vaccine mandates for the truckers.
The trucker convoy has received widespread support and their supporters have raised millions of dollars to support them to cover the cost of fuel and food, making this appear to be more than just a weekend event. Their success this weekend has spurred on plans for other trucker convoys in the U.S. and around the world.
What will happen next? That is the big question facing Canadians and those around the world as they watch what is happening in Ottawa. People are scheduled to return to work tomorrow, Monday morning, including members of Parliament.
Meanwhile, there won’t be many trucks crossing the border between Canada and the U.S., which is sure to exacerbate already stressed supply chain problems.
If this drags on into the week, the Canadian government is sure to take action. But just what that action will be, and whether or not members of the military and RCMP will obey their tyrannical leaders if they ask them to turn on their fellow citizens, is yet to be seen.
“As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.” -Hunter Thompson