Winnipeg Police say they hope to keep the peace this weekend as a series of protests are planned in and around the city.
The ongoing protest against the Manitoba Legislature — in support of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa and dubbed “occupation” of the area by Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman — remains in place, and a counter-protest, dubbed DefendWPG, is on scheduled for Saturday afternoon on the north side of the Legislature.
Police said they are continuing talks with event organizers but have developed an operational plan that will include the deployment of additional police resources, which they say are in an effort to keep the peace.
COVID-19: Stefanson says decision to lift restrictions is based on model data, not protests
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson on Friday announced the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in the province, scheduled for mid-March, but insisted the policy change was not influenced by the anti-Mandate protesters .
“As a government, we don’t make decisions that are so important to Manitobans based on protests that are taking place,” Stefanson said.
“This is a decision being made for Manitobans who have sacrificed much of their lives over the past two years and are willing to do so.”
Winnipeg Council votes unanimously to restore order over disruption from trucker protests
While organizers of the trucker protest said in a statement on Friday that they were “encouraged” by the province’s order, they intend to stay with lawmakers until restrictions are lifted and some additional demands are met.
“Our truck drivers intend to continue their presence … until there is a joint discussion with the federal government on the complete elimination of inter-provincial border restrictions and restrictions on mobility, particularly on air and train travel,” the statement said.
Rick Wall, a member of the truckers’ protest organizing committee, told Global News the group is sticking to its plan and waiting until it achieves its goals.
“We’re not just seeking the repeal of provincial mandates… the trucking industry has united this movement, so we’re also asking for the repeal of federal mandates before we pack up and leave,” he said.
“We need to see solidified action in place before we go.”
Wall said because there is a Canada-wide protest movement, organizers of the local demonstration believe their presence can continue to make an impact as protests across the country urge prime ministers to engage in an open dialogue with the federal government.
Premier Doug Ford declares a state of emergency amid protests at the land border and in Ottawa
Ontario Freezes Funds From GiveSendGo Trucker Convoy Fundraiser
Going forward, he said, the Winnipeg protest intends to stop honking on Sundays, but otherwise will not reduce the number of people or the amount of equipment at the site.
The group’s statement also acknowledged that a counter-protest is planned for the weekend and expressed hope for an “open dialogue”.
Injunction under consideration against anti-Mandate protesters
The demonstration in front of the Legislature came under fire from local politicians, local businesses and Winnipeggers living in the area over excessive noise and reports of aggressive behavior towards local residents.
At a special council meeting Thursday afternoon, Coun. Sherri Rollins, whose community includes portions of the affected neighborhoods, said residents told her they felt unsafe and harassed as a result of the legislation’s protest.
On Thursday, DefendWPG counter-protest organizer Omar Kinnarath told 680 CJOB that the community as a whole is fed up with the ongoing disruption and noise caused by the trucker protest and wants its participants held accountable .
“We will represent the masses of the city of Winnipeg,” he said. “This is a city that is almost 90 percent vaccinated, this is a multicultural and very, very diverse community – especially downtown.
“It’s a white supremacist occupation of Indigenous land in downtown Winnipeg. When I say that, I don’t mean that every single person there is a fervent racist, but they use their economic privilege and their white privilege through the state — that’s the Winnipeg Police Department — to do so.
“This would not happen if these were BIPOC people, indigenous people or black people holding a protest. A lot of the blame that the city should look at lies with the Winnipeg Police Department and how they handled it.”
Kinnarath said police must do their job by applying the law equally and listening to what the community is saying.
“The police mishandled it and they could have prevented it,” he said.
“They bring in people every day who make noise in our neighborhood.
“(The protesters are) invaders. They have inflicted insurmountable damage on downtown. Everyone wants them out – listen to your people.”
Winnipeg Council votes unanimously to take action to restore order amid disruption caused by protests
In addition to protests at lawmakers, the Manitoba RCMP is warning of several potential delays over the weekend caused by convoys and other demonstrations — including an ongoing situation at the Canada-US border near Emerson that is causing disruption to traffic and ongoing headaches caused for motorists. Police and border officials from Thursday morning.
Emergency vehicles and some agricultural transport are getting through, but that’s the only traffic flowing through the area and RCMP is still warning of major delays.
No tickets were issued and no arrests were made. Police say work continues to reach a peaceful solution with the protesters.
“We understand and appreciate the frustrations of everyone involved and affected,” Chief Supt. Rob Hill said in a statement on Friday.
“The RCMP is on the ground and will remain on the ground until the situation at the border is resolved. We will continue to use discretion to guide our response to this evolving situation. Let me stress that the proper use of police discretion should not be confused with a lack of enforcement.
“We must always assess the situation at ground level, and that may require waiting for a lower-risk opportunity to take enforcement action, rather than heating up the situation.”
RCMP said they are aware of weekend convoys planned for Deacons Corner in the Springfield RM, the Perimeter Highway around Winnipeg, Highway 3 near Morden and the Selkirk area.
The Emerson border crossing was closed due to a demonstration
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.