A protester walks in front of parked trucks as demonstrators continue to rally against vaccine mandates in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by AFP)
Canadian police have gathered in mass numbers in the capital city of Ottawa preparing to clear a trucker-led protest that has choked the countryís streets.
Huge groups of police officers on Thursday filled into the parliamentary precinct in Ottawa, where the trucks have been parked for weeks.
Truckers have already been warned by the capital cityís interim police chief to "leave the area now," or risk arrest and truck seizures, but they appear undeterred.
In a statement on Wednesday, Police Chief Steve Bell said "a methodical and well-resourced plan" would be carried out over the coming days to take back the control of the city.
"Some of the techniques we are lawfully able and prepared to use are not what we are used to seeing in Ottawa, but we are prepared to use them... to restore order," he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the parliament on Thursday, trying to invoke the Emergencies Act for only the second time in Canadian history, even as critics say the Act restricts freedom of expression.
Trudeau termed the peaceful protests as "illegal blockades and occupations", saying they have to stop. He told reporters Wednesday that the police should now "be able to begin their actions," and "itís time for this to end."
The truckers have been blocking border crossings to the United States, with the prime minister saying it has created a critical and urgent situation that cannot be dealt with under any other Canadian laws. In a letter to provincial premiers, Trudeau decried the protests as "a threat to our democracy."
Trudeauís documents to the House of Commons cited "a risk of serious violence and the potential for lone actor attackers to conduct íterrorism attacks.í"
"It is affecting Canadaís reputation internationally, hurting trade and commerce, and undermining confidence and trust in our institutions," he added.
Several provincial premiers have denounced the use of the emergency measures. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association accused the federal government of not having met the threshold for invoking the act.
One notable feature of the current governmentís reaction is its effort to demonize the protest movement, describing it in such disparaging terms as disruptive, hateful, and thuggish even as the protests have been largely peaceful.
Ottawaís Police Chief Peter Sloly was forced to resign under intense pressure from authorities for not being tough enough in handling the mass protests.