Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, two of the main organizers of the so-called "Freedom Convoy" in Ottawa, were arrested on Thursday.
Dagny Pawlak, a spokeswoman for the convoy, told The Washington Post that Lich was detained on a charge of "aiding and abetting mischief." Earlier Thursday, Lich, an Alberta resident, told CBC News her personal bank account had been frozen, and she knew she would soon be jailed. Ottawa police declined to comment on the arrests.
The protest against Canada's COVID-19 policies began three weeks ago, and demonstrators who remain say they won't leave until all mandates are lifted. There have been dozens of criminal investigations launched from the protests, Ottawa residents have complained about the noise from idling trucks and all-night honking, and police have ticketed people for bringing in fuel to refill trucks and for illegal parking.
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On Thursday, Ottawa interim Police Chief Steve Bell told the demonstrators it's "time to go. Your time in our city has come to an end and you must leave." Police have set up a perimeter around Ottawa, Bell said, and a large area is now only open to residents, workers, and law enforcement. "I implore anyone that's there — get in your truck and we will navigate safe passage for you to leave our city streets," he added. "We want this demonstration to end peacefully. ... There is a deliberate plan, there is commitment, and there's the resourcing that we now have in place to end this."
Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau authorized the Emergencies Act to give authorities temporary powers during the crisis. Trudeau on Thursday said this wasn't done in order to suspend the fundamental rights of Canadians or deploy the military. "Some protesters came to Ottawa to express their frustration and fatigue with public health measures," he added. "That's their right. But the illegal blockades and occupations are not. They have to stop."
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino on Thursday said there are links between the Ottawa protest and a blockade in Coutts, Alberta, where police seized guns and ammunition from demonstrators. Government documents released Wednesday suggest that former police officers and military members are providing security and logistics support for the Alberta blockade, Global News reports, and the country's protests have become a haven for "anti-government and anti-authority, anti-vaccination, conspiracy theory, and white supremacist groups throughout Canada and other Western countries."
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