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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday he is revoking the wide-reaching emergency powers that put an end to the Freedom Convoy protest, but said an investigation into whether he was right to use it will not begin for two months.
Trudeau made the announcement after authorities ended the blockades at the borders and the occupation in Ottawa by truckers and others opposed to COVID-19 restrictions – with some police officers accused of beating innocent demonstrators.
The prime minister said the ‘threat continues’ but the acute emergency that included entrenched occupations has ended. His government invoked the powers last week and lawmakers affirmed the powers late Monday.
‘The situation is no longer an emergency, therefore the federal government will be ending the use of the emergencies act,’ Trudeau said. ‘We are confident that existing laws and bylaws are sufficient.’
The Emergencies Act allows authorities to declare certain areas as no-go zones. It also allows police to freeze truckers’ personal and corporate bank accounts and compel tow truck companies to haul away vehicles.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the end of the Emergencies Act during a news conference, Wednesday
Police hang off a truck as authorities work to end a protest against COVID-19 measures that had grown into a broader anti-government demonstration
People walk toward Parliament Hill where earlier in the day police moved in on February 19
Protesters cheer for a truck leaving the area as police take action to put an end to a protest
Trudeau‘s government froze bank accounts and other assets during what leaders declared an ’emergency period’ in Ottawa.
Among those targeted was a single mom on a minimum wage job who donated just $50, according to one local Conservative MP, sparking outrage over what critics of Trudeau claimed was authoritarian behavior. Thousands of protesters flooded the streets outside Parliament Hill and blockades that shut down border crossings into the U.S.
Also, there were reports of arrests of some of the truckers. A trucker arrested as police cracked down on Freedom Convoy protestors in Ottawa has told of the farcical way the Canadian capital’s ‘Keystone Kops’ tried to bring the weeks’ long demonstration to an end.
Even the officers themselves were complaining about how disorganized the whole operation was, Guy Meister told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview.
‘You could tell they were overwhelmed. They were as dumb as a bag of hammers,’ Meister, 53, said.
‘They wanted to take my booking photograph, but I had to wait for several minutes because they were having issues with the “mug shot board.” They first took my picture before they realized that it didn’t have any numbers on the board I was holding.
‘What should have taken a few minutes turned into 20 minutes, all in the freezing cold.
Long-haul truck driver Guy Meister said Ottawa police who broke up the protests in the Canadian capital were as incompetent as the silent-movie Keystone Kops
Officers in full riot gear moved in Friday to break up the protests that had paralyzed Ottawa for weeks
Meister said he was zip tied outside in -5 degree Celsius (5 degree Fahrenheit) temperatures after he was arrested
An investigation into Trudeau’s decision to invoke the law and what came after begins in 60 days, according to the CBC. Canadian Parliamentarians will launch a committee to oversee that review next week.
The trucker protest grew until it closed vital trade routes along the Canada-U.S. border and shut down key parts of the capital for more than three weeks. But all border blockades have now ended and the streets around the Canadian Parliament are quiet.
‘We were very clear that the use of the emergencies act would be limited in time,’ Trudeau said.
Trudeau had warned earlier this week there were some truckers just outside Ottawa who might be planning further blockades or occupations. His public safety minister also said there was an attempt to block a border crossing in British Columbia over the weekend.
The protests, which were first aimed at a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers but also encompassed fury over the range of COVID-19 restrictions and hatred of Trudeau, reflected the spread of disinformation in Canada and simmering populist and right-wing anger.
A graffitied image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen as city employees clean up Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill
A vehicle is towed from Kent Street, as Canadian police worked to evict the last of the trucks and supporters occupying the downtown core
The self-styled Freedom Convoy shook Canada´s reputation for civility, inspired convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands and interrupted trade, causing economic damage on both sides of the border. Hundreds of trucks eventually occupied the streets around Parliament, a display that was part protest and part carnival.
For almost a week the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing, the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, was blocked. The crossing sees more than 25% of the trade between the two countries.
Authorities moved to reopen the border posts, but police in Ottawa did little but issue warnings until Friday, even as hundreds and sometimes thousands of protesters clogged the streets of the city and besieged Parliament Hill.
On Friday, authorities launched the largest police operation in Canadian history, arresting a string of Ottawa protesters and increasing that pressure on Saturday until the streets in front of Parliament were clear. Eventually, police arrested at least 191 people and towed away 79 vehicles. Many protesters retreated as the pressure increased.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said those who had their bank accounts frozen were ‘influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa, and owners and/or drivers of vehicles who did not want to leave the area.’
Workers reinforce a fence inside a protected zone around Parliament Hill
A flatbed removes a truck from the convoy after police cleared Wellington Street, previously occupied by the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa
The province of Ontario also announced it is ending its state of emergency but said the ’emergency tools provided to law enforcement will be maintained at this time as police continue to address ongoing activity on the ground.’
Those who block critical infrastructure face up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
The Canadian protest has inspired scores of truckers to begin their 11-day trek from California to the Beltway, a major highway encircling Washington DC, on Wednesday to protest COVID-19 vaccine and mandates in the US after the cavalcade raised more than $464,000 in donations.
The People’s Convoy – comprised of more than two dozen 18-wheelers, along with about 50 pickups and recreational vehicles – has called on the federal government to end the National Emergency enacted at the start of the pandemic, arguing the threat posed by the coronavirus has now receded.
President Joe Biden extended the emergency – which was set to expire next week – last Friday. He did so after arguing that ‘the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause significant risk to the public health and safety of the nation.’
The People’s Convoy argues the ‘government has forgotten its place’ and seeks to advocate for all Americans impacted by unconstitutional restrictions. Around 25 separate convoys are expected to join the group in DC.
‘This is for our freedoms, our human rights. Enough is enough,’ trucker Ron Coleman, 61, of Reno, Nevada, said as he prepared to make the 2,500-mile journey.
‘I think everybody’s here for different reasons, but it all boils down to the same thing: Freedom and liberty,’ echoed Shane Class, who had travelled from Idaho to join the rally. ‘It’s time for our government to start understanding that people want that freedom in the Constitution back.’
In response to the protest, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved a request from local DC government and the Capitol police to deploy 700 members of the National Guard to the capital city ahead of the convoy’s arrival. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Guardsmen would not be armed, and will not be empowered to arrest people, but would be reporting wrongdoing to local police. Approximately 50 ‘large tactical vehicles’ will also be stationed in the city 24 hours a day.
Biden, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Pentagon have been accused of overreacting to the convoy after it emerged 500 DC cops had been put on standby for violence.
People’s Convoy organizers claim they do not intend to disrupt roads or bridges, like the Canadian protest did. However, some semi-truck drivers are already calling for widespread blockades, including Bob Bolus who on Monday vowed the Beltway and other roads in and out of DC will be shut down.
Bolus, who is leading a DC-bound convoy of about 25 semis from Pennsylvania, began his route Wednesday morning after suffering a more than two hour delay caused by a flat tire. He has not specified how they plan to block the Beltway but told WJLA: ‘We’re not going to cause a traffic problem any more than they live with every single day.’
Biden elected to extend the National Emergency despite calls from 70 House Republicans and Department of Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra urging him to end the declaration. The leaders cited access to vaccines, treatments and mental health impacts as reasons to let the order expire, as well as the fact that other nations have started transitioning out of pandemic restrictions.
‘[The] fact is we have a government that tries to push us around,’ trucker Mike Landis told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday when asked about the People’s Convoy. ‘At this moment, we are living without our Constitution. Our Constitution means nothing right now.’
The movement has attracted more than $464,000 in donations, according to the website, which organizers say will be used to reimburse fuel and other costs borne by participating truckers.
The Freedom Convoy sets off from the Adelanto Stadium in California on Wednesday afternoon
The two-dozen trailers are likely to be joined by other trucks as they make their way across the continental US
Supporters were seen waving flags as the convoy set off from Adelanto on Wednesday afternoon
Other protesters held up anti-censorship placards as the convoy began its intercontinental journey across the US
Scores of truckers began their 11-day trek from California to the Beltway, a major highway encircling Washington DC , on Wednesday in an effort to protest COVID-19 vaccine and mandates
People’s Convoy participants embark on their cross-country journey to DC from Adelanto, California on Wednesday afternoon
This map shows the route of the People’s Convoy from California to Washington DC, with organizers hoping that up to 1,000 trucks will take part