Protestors Call for Supporters to “Hold the Line”
THUNDER BAY – NATIONAL NEWS – Protests continued across Canada on Saturday. There was a convoy of vehicles on the streets of Thunder Bay that stretched along Memorial Avenue having made their way from Marina Park.
Windsor – Ambassador Bridge Injunction
Efforts to clear the Ambassador Bridge appear completed.
Police have cleared all protesters from the #AmbassadorBridgeBlockade and are now holding at Tecumseh/Huron Church.
A very different vibe here today. Police mean business. pic.twitter.com/bC1wqzUy56
— ???????????? ???????????????????????? (@DaxMelmer) February 13, 2022
Enforcement will continue in the demonstration area and there will be zero tolerance for illegal activity. The public should avoid the area.
— Windsor Police (@WindsorPolice) February 13, 2022
On February 11, 2022, the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Justice, Geoffrey B. Morawetz, made an order prohibiting impeding or blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge, an international bridge in Windsor, Ontario connecting Canada to the United States. The order is binding on all persons who have notice of it. It takes effect at 7:00 pm EST, February 11, 2022, and remains in effect for ten days.
The order was granted at the request of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association and with the support of the Corporation of the City of Windsor. The Attorney General of Ontario, Doug Downey, intervened in the court case and expressed his support for the granting of the order.
The order authorizes the police to use powers of arrest and seizure to enforce it, but specifies that the police retain discretion as to the timing and manner of enforcement.
On Friday, Windsor Police issued a statement to protestors:
“The Windsor Police Service wants to make demonstrators clearly aware that it is a criminal offence to obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of property. The offence itself is known as mischief to property.
“The unlawful act of blocking streets at and near the Ambassador Bridge is resulting in people being denied the lawful use, enjoyment and operation of their property and causing businesses to close down.
“We are providing notice that anyone blocking streets or assisting others in the blocking of streets may be committing a criminal offence and must immediately cease further unlawful activity or you may face charges. You could be arrested if you are a party to the offence or assisting others in the direct or indirect commission of this offence.
“Vehicles or other property related to an offence may be seized. Once a vehicle is seized, it may be detained and, following a conviction, possibly forfeited.
“Charges and/or convictions related to the unlawful activity associated with the demonstration may lead to denial in crossing the USA border”.
In a media release from the Ottawa Police, “Together with the OPP and the RCMP, the Ottawa Police Service announced the establishment of an enhanced, Integrated Command Centre (ICC) in response to a significant influx of demonstrators into the Ottawa area and escalation of the current occupation”.
Police report that in downtown Ottawa, over 4,000 demonstrators were present throughout the day.
Rally and March today where thousands of Ottawans expressed displeasure of the handling of this crisis and tore down the argument that this convoy is about “freedom” based on the way they have treated our residents, our schools and workers. #OttawaOccupied #Ottawa #Ottnews pic.twitter.com/lYfKclAdBB
— Shawn Menard (@ShawnMenard1) February 12, 2022
Police say there were safety concerns – arising from aggressive, illegal behaviour by many demonstrators coupled with limited police enforcement capabilities.
“We expect that the ICC will result in a significantly enhanced ability of our police service to respond to the current situation in our city. The ICC will allow us to make the most effective use of the additional resources our policing partners have provided to us.”
— judith battershill (@judiloks) February 12, 2022
Winnipeg Police Service deployed additional resources to the area of the Manitoba Legislative Building to keep the peace in response to conflicting protests. The Winnipeg Police Service would like to thank all participants for their patience and support as we worked to ensure the protection of everyone involved – it is our priority to ensure public safety.
Police report that they are also striving to balance the right of everyone to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the rights of the general public, local residents and businesses to a safe environment.
— judith battershill (@judiloks) February 12, 2022
There were no charges were laid during the events. Two individuals were detained under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act for their safety (related to traffic concerns) and were conveyed to a residence where they were turned over to friends.
Winnipeg Police Arrest Indigenous Person
We've received additional video of the arrest of an Indigenous person following the counter-demonstration at the Legislature. Shame on the @wpgpolice for this blatant act of colonial violence and aggression, while ignoring the ongoing fascist occupation.#AbolishTheWPS pic.twitter.com/A30REhiaje
— Winnipeg Police Cause Harm (@WpgPoliceHarm) February 12, 2022
The Winnipeg Police Service state that they will continue to maintain a full-time presence in the area, and discussions with the organizers of the demonstrations continue. We thank those who reside and work nearby for their continued patience while we work towards a resolution.
Edmonton Police report, “As a result of Saturday’s convoy, the EPS Traffic Enforcement Section issued 10 tickets to drivers involved in the demonstration. Approximately 60 additional tickets will be mailed to the registered owners of vehicles identified as participating and committing an offence. Nine of these tickets are related to noise”.
Police add, “Due to safety concerns for both law enforcement and the public, it is not always safe to issue a ticket at the time of the alleged offence. Tickets can be issued in the hours or days after an infraction occurs, based on evidence obtained at the time of the incident”.
Given the impacts to traffic, officers worked to keep roadways as orderly as possible and to ensure participants dispersed appropriately throughout the day. As with any demonstration, all citizens have the right to a safe environment”.
Amnesty International Deeply Troubled
Amnesty International has been following with great concern the developments relating to the “Freedom Convoy” blockade in Ottawa.
“Amnesty International Canada is deeply troubled by the reports of violence, harassment, intimidation, and hate speech which have surfaced since January 29th,” said Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Ketty Nivyabandi.
“Nazi flags, Confederate flags, and other symbols of racism and hate exhibited have no room in peaceful protests. Equally concerning is the affiliation of some of the Convoy organizers with overtly racist, white supremacist groups.”
The failure of law enforcement agencies to respond swiftly and appropriately to reports of violence and harassment demands a prompt, thorough, and impartial public inquiry. The inquiry must also address instances of interference with residents’ rights to public health and social services delivery, as well as the harassment of healthcare workers, reporters, people living with disabilities, and racialized and other marginalized persons.
“Authorities hold an equal international obligation to protect people from violence and harassment, and to respect the rights of all protesters to peaceful assembly and expression of their views. Violence and harassment however are not part of exercising the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Amnesty International calls on authorities to take immediate and appropriate action to facilitate peaceful protests, while investigating and holding those perpetrating violence or inciting hate to account,” added Nivyabandi.
Throughout the demonstrations, racialized workers and residents have reported being singled out for abuse. Over 400 hate messages are under investigation by the Ottawa Police. Frontline services have expressed concern about the impact of the ongoing demonstration on their ability to provide to already vulnerable clients. People with disabilities have reported disruptions and delays in receiving supportive care, given ongoing street blockages by demonstrators. Journalists experienced threats and harassment, both online and while reporting from the demonstration zone. Until a recent court injunction, residents were subjected to almost continuous high-decibel noise levels, including honking, air horns, train whistles, street parties and fireworks since the demonstration began at the end of January.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council, and Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg have also expressed concerns about the misuse and appropriation of sacred, traditional objects and ceremonies.
Further, Amnesty International Canada notes with great concern the permissive response afforded by the Ottawa Police to a largely white-dominant protest group. This response is in sharp contrast with how law enforcement authorities have mistreated Indigenous and racialized protesters in the past.
“Amnesty International Canada expresses solidarity with the frontline organizations, including homeless and women’s shelters whose operations have been impacted by these protests, as well as 2SLGBTQI+ and racialized communities – particularly Jewish, Muslim, Black and Indigenous communities – who have been targeted by hate propaganda,” said Nivyabandi.
Further Background on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
Peaceful protests are a fundamental part of a vibrant society. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is a vital means of political engagement, with a long history of being a valid and effective means of bringing issues and grievances to light. Facilitating and protecting the right to freedom of assembly contributes to the protection of other human rights, including freedom of expression.
The right to hold assemblies and demonstrations on public roads has been consistently upheld by regional and international human rights bodies, which have established that urban space is not only an area for circulation but also a space for participation.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association has affirmed that “the free flow of traffic should not automatically take precedence over freedom of peaceful assembly.” However, these rights are not unlimited. They can be restricted in order to protect the rights of others, public order and public health.
The UN Human Rights Committee has said that “an assembly that remains peaceful but which nevertheless causes a high level of disruption, such as the extended blocking of traffic, may be dispersed, as a rule, only if the disruption is ‘serious and sustained’.” In any case, the onus is on the authorities to justify any restrictions.
Under international human rights law, states also have the obligation to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination, including in the enjoyment of the right to security of the person and protection by the State against violence. The UN Human Rights Committee clearly stated that “… peaceful assemblies may not be used for propaganda for war (…) or advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (…). As far as possible, action should be taken in such cases against the individual perpetrators, rather than against the assembly as a whole.”