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Convoys expand to multiple cities, Ottawa and Alberta protesters remain

Convoys of protesters expanded into additional cities over the weekend, arguing against pandemic-related restrictions and other government measures. But where protests in locations including Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Quebec City dispersed, those in Ottawa and at the Alberta border remain.

The City of Ottawa has officially declared a state of emergency, citing threats to public safety and disruptions in the downtown core. That move helps to expedite requests for additional resources.

The GoFundMe platform says it will not release more than $9 million in donations to Freedom Convoy organizers. (File photo)

Alberta opens investigations

In a significant blow to protest organizers, GoFundMe has also suspended more than $9 million in donations, citing evidence from law enforcement that the Ottawa convoy which first arrived Jan. 29 has become an occupation. The fundraising platform had previously released $1 million to organizers, who said it would be used to reimburse fuel costs for participating truckers.

Reports circulating on social media indicate convoy organizers have turned to other platforms to raise funds.

While protesters have been seen stockpiling fuel, Ottawa police announced Sunday that anyone bringing fuel to demonstrating trucks would be subject to arrest.

Several protesters were also arrested during the day for mischief, and multiple vehicles and fuel have been seized, it added. More than 100 tickets and notices were issued for factors such as excessive honking, driving the wrong way, defective muffler, no seat belt, alcohol readily available, and having improper licence classes.

Alberta RCMP confirmed through Twitter yesterday that protests along Hwy. 4 continue to impede traffic around the border crossing at Coutts.  While many individual protesters there are being respectful and listening to police, several investigations have also been opened, it said.

‘Largely peaceful and respectful’

Additional convoys and protests in provincial capitals over the weekend were largely reported to be peaceful, although police in each jurisdiction were taking extra measures to limit traffic disruptions. Toronto, for example, implemented key road closures around the Ontario Legislature a nearby area known as Hospital Row, and an increased police presence remains downtown.

“From everything I have seen, the Saturday protest in Toronto was largely peaceful and respectful as I had hoped it would be,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said, crediting Toronto Police.

Quebec City police ordered trucks and cars away from the National Assembly Sunday evening, bringing a fourth day of protests to an end.

‘No connection to the trucking industry’

“It appears that most protesters have no connection to the trucking industry and have separate grievances beyond the cross-border vaccine mandates,” Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) president Stephen Laskowski said in a weekend statement.

Protests began as Canada introduced a vaccine mandate for border-crossing truck drivers on Jan. 15 and the U.S. began its mandate Jan. 22. Even if the Canadian rules are lifted, non-vaccinated truck drivers would still be unable to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

“To those in the trucking industry that have chosen to participate in this protest, your behavior today will not only reflect upon you and your family but the 300,000-plus fellow Canadians that, like you, take great pride in our industry,” Laskowski said. “Please remember this important responsibility you bear today in delivering your message responsibly as well as the impact your actions will have on the image of many of your colleagues who do not share your opinion but share your passion for the industry and country.”

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