Edmonton police under fire for being brutal with protesters against convoy

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A counter-protester walks through the crowd as people gather to protest COVID-19 mandates and support a protest against COVID-19 restrictions taking place in Ottawa, Edmonton on Saturday February 5, 2022 .JASON FRANSON/CP

Edmonton’s mayor said he raised concerns with the police commission about how his city’s police force handled a group of residents who staged a counter-protest against a convoy of trucks last weekend.

Counter-protesters say police quickly dispersed them and warned them they could face fines for obstructing traffic, while protesters in the convoy were able to drive downtown and create disruption with few obstacles.

Truck convoy protesters, who oppose health restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, have been demonstrating for weeks on Saturday. Last Friday, in anticipation of a third protest, the City of Edmonton obtained a temporary court injunction “to help address noise pollution from vehicles participating in protests against public health restrictions.”

Residents who staged a counter-protest against the convoy say the city’s police reacted unfairly. Over the past month, cities across the country have seen protests against public health restrictions using trucks to block downtown roads and create excessive and sustained noise.

Trucker convoy protests have spread across Canada as counter-protests call for an end to disruptions

Juan Vargas was part of a group of Edmontonians who took to River Valley Road on February 12 to prevent the truck convoy from reaching the city’s downtown and causing disruption as they had the previous weeks.

“The goal for me, in large part, was to show that people cannot enter with their convoys without opposition or resistance,” Mr. Vargas said.

Within an hour, the group was dispersed by the Edmonton Police Department.

In a statement, Edmonton police said they issued 10 tickets to convoy participants and issued 60 more, including nine noise-related.

“Positioning a public protest is a complex task that involves complying with multiple laws, while balancing the fundamental rights of all protesters set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our priority is always to maintain public safety and order,” the police said.

“Citizens were advised on Friday, February 11 that mitigation may include verbal warnings, tickets, arrests, and collection of evidence for follow-up investigations. The injunction has been incorporated into these enforcement strategies.

The force said counter-protesters had been asked to leave the road to “restore traffic”.

“The traffic blockage not only impacts those involved in the protest, but all motorists. Citizens were cooperative with our request to move to the sidewalk and officers made no enforcement.

But Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he raised residents’ concerns with the chairman of the police commission on Saturday evening.

“We heard similar concerns from many Edmontonians who felt that the rules in place, particularly the injunction we were able to seek in court, were not properly implemented,” said said Mr. Sohi. “We will continue to work with the police department, with our police board to ensure the safety of Edmontonians is a priority.”

Mr. Sohi discouraged Edmontonians from participating in counter-protests.

“I am concerned for the well-being of people who are or may be participating in these counter-protests,” he said. “They are very dangerous people, the convoy. We have already seen today how many guns, weapons and ammunition [were] seized to these people.

Bradley Lafortune, another counter-protest organizer, said Saturday’s event was a reasonable response from concerned Edmontonians.

“Walking back and forth across the crosswalk to stop a convoy of trucks bent on disrupting life in downtown Edmonton is an entirely reasonable response and intervention by concerned citizens,” said Mr. . The wealth.

“At the end of the day, the police don’t protect us, we protect ourselves. And that was clarified on Saturday.

Michael Janz, councilor for a central Edmonton ward, on Saturday called for a public inquiry into the police response. He said many of his constituents are frustrated and angry to see the “double standard”.

“When people perceive that the police are not enforcing the law on convoys of truckers who are breaking the law and breaking the rules of the road with blasphemous messages on their vehicles, this, in turn, undermines people’s confidence saying well, why should I follow the law?”

Mr Janz said the police response should have started much earlier to stop the truck convoy from entering the city in the first place.

“Why the full rule of law, the ticket, everything, wasn’t thrown at each of these vehicles from the start, why it was allowed to get here drives people to a level of frustration that I haven’t not encountered in my 12 years of public service,” Mr. Janz said.

“We’ve seen that when the police want to throw the book at somebody, they can definitely do that.”

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