Following roughly 20 days of sustained protest, without a single act of violence, protesting truckers on Canada’s Parliament Hill are digging in while authorities heighten enforcement measures and their presence among the dissenters.
On Thursday morning videos emerged online showing police officers delivering notices to protesters, warning them that enforcement measures are imminent.
On Feb. 16, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) published a “Notice to Demonstrators” on its website stating, “The Ottawa Police Service wants to inform you that under provincial and federal legislation, you will face severe penalties if you do not cease further unlawful activity and remove your vehicle and/or property immediately from all unlawful protest sites.”
The notice informs protesters that they may be arrested and charged with criminal offenses. However, the charges threatened only include mischief and “a variety of other non-criminal offenses.”
The consequences threatened however appear to be disproportionate with the crimes allegedly being committed.
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Truckers are being told that they risk their vehicles being seized, a drivers license suspension, and their personal or business bank accounts being frozen.
Alarmingly, if a minor, anyone under the age of 18, is with a protester, the protester faces a fine of upwards of $5000.00 and/or potentially spending up to five years in prison. Reports of children among the convoy have surfaced; however, it remains unclear how many minors are present. Families with young children regularly attend the protests on weekends; protests that appear more like a winter festival and nothing like a violent insurrection.
Authorities have not limited its rhetoric to threatening families, truckers’ pets have also been targeted. The Ottawa By-law twitter account tweeted early on Feb. 17, “Attention animal owners at demonstration. If you are unable to care for your animal as a result of enforcement actions, your animal will placed into protective care for 8 days, at your cost. After 8 days, if arrangements are not made, your animal will be considered relinquished.”
Early on Thursday morning fences were erected around Parliament Hill in what many are blasting as yet another form of intimidation intended to imply authorities are bracing for violence even though not a single act of violence has emerged following 3-weeks of sustained protest.
In another example of intimidation and inflamed rhetoric the interim police chief of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) has warned that police are ready to use methods to quash the protests that Canadians are “not used to seeing,” according to National Newswatch.
Weather in Ottawa is calling for upwards of 20 cm (7.8 inches) of snow on Thursday and a winter storm warning is in effect for the capital region. The harsh winter weather could stymie enforcement efforts by authorities allowing the protest to persist into its fourth weekend. While the primary storm is expected to hit on Thursday significant snow accumulation is forecast for the region out to Tuesday next week.
Despite increased intimidation by authorities, truckers participating in the protests show few signs of backing down and appear to be preparing for another influx of protesters this Saturday as opposed to consequences levied against them.