A showdown appeared to be shaping up in Ottawa’s nearly three-week siege by truckers protesting the country’s COVID-19 restrictions as police in the capital warned drivers on Wednesday to leave immediately or risk arrest.
The big rigs parked outside Parliament represented the movement’s last stronghold after demonstrators abandoned their sole remaining truck blockade along the U.S. border.
With that, all border crossings were open for the first time in more than two weeks of unrest, centering attention on the capital, where drivers defiantly ripped up warnings telling them to go home.
Authorities in yellow “police liaison” vests went from rig to rig, knocking on the doors and handing truckers leaflets informing them they could be prosecuted, lose their licenses and see their vehicles seized under Canada’s Emergencies Act. Police also began ticketing vehicles.
One protester shouted, “I will never go home!” Some threw the warning into a toilet put out on the street. Protesters sat in their trucks and honked their horns in a chorus that echoed loudly downtown.
There was no immediate word from police on when or if they might move in to clear the hundreds of trucks by force. But protest leaders braced for action on Wednesday.
“If it means that I need to go to prison, if I need to be fined in order to allow freedom to be restored in this country — millions of people have given far more for their freedom,” said David Paisley, who traveled to Ottawa with a friend who is a truck driver.
The warnings came two days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the emergency law to try to break the protests.