Winnipeg protesters dismantle street presence, move to Memorial Park


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So-called “freedom convoy” protesters have moved their occupation to nearby Memorial Park, after Winnipeg police set a 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline to clear streets across from the Manitoba Legislative Building.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/02/2022 (463 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

So-called “freedom convoy” protesters have moved their occupation to nearby Memorial Park, after Winnipeg police set a 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline to clear streets across from the Manitoba Legislative Building.

City police ordered anti-COVID-19 mandate demonstrators to move their vehicles, trailers and structures from the area of Broadway and Memorial Boulevard, with warnings of possible arrests and charges if they did not comply.

By 5 p.m., Memorial and Broadway were clear of the big-rig cabs and farm equipment that had lined the streets for three weeks.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Protestors pack up and move their vehicles away from the Memorial Boulevard location across from the Manitoba Legislative building Wednesday morning.

The adjacent park had been cleared of snow with a skid-steer loader, and a large pile of firewood placed near chairs and burn barrels. A rally co-organizer said there are plans to erect a teepee for demonstrators’ use.

A single motor home remained on Memorial Boulevard, along with a pick-up truck hauling a flatbed trailer.

Demonstrators have occupied the area since Feb. 4, while calling for an end to novel coronavirus pandemic restrictions and mandates imposed by the federal and provincial governments.

Provincial restrictions are being lifted next month. Ottawa has not budged on a regulation requiring Canadian truckers arriving from the U.S. to be fully vaccinated to avoid a 14-day quarantine. The U.S. requires all non-Americans entering at land or ferry ports to be fully vaccinated and show proof.

A few police squad cars and unmarked vehicles were on scene at 5 p.m., including one blocking the northbound lane of Memorial at Broadway.

The remaining protesters, around two dozen, stood on sidewalks near Broadway and on the median, waving anti-mandate signs. A small group of counter-protesters waved signs back.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Rob Carver said local protesters agreed to move vehicles and trailers when they realized they would not be able to achieve all of their goals.

Through those discussions, both sides came to the conclusion “the end of this was approaching,” said Carver, who said he was not aware of any demonstrators being charged.

Carver said he did not foresee a situation like that in Ottawa last weekend, when protesters and police clashed near Parliament Hill.

The Winnipeg protest has been peaceful and hasn’t been as disruptive to the public, the constable said, adding police want to minimize use of force or anything considered “heavy-handed.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Some of the protestors have been moving gear over to Memorial Park where they plan on setting up tents, a stage and a large tipi.

If any vehicles or trailers remained after 5 p.m., Carver suggested police would have allowed a grace period, if they were in the process of being removed.

Anti-mandate demonstration co-organizer Caleb Brown said the plan is to stay in the downtown park indefinitely.

“(WPS) decided the time for us to be on Memorial (Boulevard) was over,” Brown said by phone. “We didn’t think it would serve anyone’s purpose to fight against that — we’re trying to be peaceful and lawful, so it was time for the trucks to go.”

Memorial Park is on provincial land. In response to a media question about whether the protesters would be complying with police orders in taking over the spot, Carver said the WPS will continue to monitor the situation.

“I think we’ll have to look at it as it unfolds,” he said.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A protestor shovels snow off the roof of an RV.

Carver suggested the group will be allowed to continue its protest in Memorial Park if it does not cause any disruption or break any laws.

He acknowledged some downtown residents haven’t been happy with the protesters’ presence and traffic and noise disruption or with the police service’s approach.

The group previously said it would not leave unless Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to meet. It had also requested a meeting with Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson.

Police officers handed out letters to protesters Tuesday to inform them of the deadline.

“Over the last three weeks, the Winnipeg Police Service has worked to balance your right to protest while protecting the rights of residents affected by protest activity,” the letter stated. “Your ongoing presence and blocking of streets is interfering with the lawful use and enjoyment of personal and public property.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Protesters have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to clear the streets across from the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Police warned protesters they could be charged with mischief, intimidation or other offences under the Criminal Code, and their vehicles could be seized and become subject to an application by the Crown for forfeiture, if they do not comply.

Highway Traffic Act charges of obstructing police and failing to obey the instructions of a peace officer could also be considered, along with bylaw offences, including excessive noise.

Twitter: @chriskitching

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Police warned the group the federal Emergencies Act could be used to seize vehicles, trailers and equipment, and freeze assets.

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Chris Kitching

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.


Updated on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 1:32 PM CST: Adds photos, updates hed

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