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Tag: anti vax protests

Canadian Police Begin Major Push To End Ottawa Anti-Vax Occupation

By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian police on Sunday are making possibly the final push to clear the capital city of demonstrators who have paralyzed it by parking and camping on the streets for more than three weeks to protest against pandemic restrictions.

Police have made 170 arrests and towed 53 vehicles since they began efforts to bust up the protest on Friday morning that required Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke rarely used emergency powers.

On Saturday, police used pepper spray and stun grenades to move out the die-hard protesters who have remained, clearing most of the area in front of parliament and next to the prime minister's office.

But pockets of entrenched protesters still remain. Some of those arrested on Saturday wore body armor and had smoke grenades and other fireworks in their bags and vehicles, police said.

"This operation is still moving forward. It is not over and it will take more time until we have achieved our goals," Ottawa's Interim Police Chief Steve Bell said on Saturday.

The protesters initially wanted an end to cross-border COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers, but the blockade turned into a demonstration against Trudeau and the government.

Trudeau on Monday invoked emergency powers to give his government wider authority to stop the protests, including sweeping powers to freeze the accounts of those suspected of supporting the blockades, without obtaining a court order.

"Police are making their way through the streets methodically and responsibly. This is encouraging, but the work is not yet done," Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on Saturday.

Protesters, who have been filmed by police, will be held accountable, Bell said.

"We will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges. ... This investigation will go on for months to come."

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Richard Chang)

Trudeau Invokes Emergency Powers To Quell Anti-Vax Protests

Ottawa (AFP) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday invoked rarely-used emergency powers to bring an end to trucker-led protests against Covid-19 health rules, as police arrested 11 people with a "cache of firearms" blocking a border crossing with the United States in Alberta.

Trudeau will use the Emergencies Act to give the government extra powers in a national crisis to bring an end to the trucker-led protests now entering a third week, according to public broadcaster CBC.

Hundreds of big rigs still clog the streets of the capital Ottawa.

And the threat of violence lingered, as federal police said they arrested 11 protesters with rifles, handguns, body armor, and ammunition at the border between Coutts, Alberta and Sweet Grass, Montana, just a day after another key US-Canada border crossing was cleared.

"The group was said to have a willingness to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement.

Ontario, meanwhile, announced the lifting of vaccine passport requirements.

The truckers and their supporters are pushing back against mandatory vaccines and a wider anti-establishment agenda that has triggered copycat movements in France and the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, with some US truckers mulling a protest for March.

Facing growing pressure to act, Trudeau said Friday that all options "were on the table" for ending the "unlawful" demonstrations that are hurting the nation's economic recovery.

He discussed the situation with premiers across the country and convened a special federal response group on efforts to end the occupation of Ottawa and remaining blockades of border crossings in Alberta and Manitoba.

The Emergencies Act has only been used once in peacetime -- by Trudeau's father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, during the October Crisis of 1970.

It saw troops sent to Quebec to restore order after the kidnappings by militant separatists of a British trade attache and a Quebec minister, Pierre Laporte, who was found strangled to death in the trunk of a car.

Protests Spreading

The "Freedom Convoy" started with Canadian truckers protesting against mandatory vaccines to cross the border between Canada and the United States.

But its demands now include an end to all Covid-19 health measures and, for many of the protesters, the toppling of Trudeau's Liberal government -- only five months after he won re-election.

The truckers have found support among conservatives and vaccine mandate opponents across the globe, even as Covid-19 measures are being rolled back in many places.

In Paris on the weekend, police fired tear gas and issued hundreds of fines in an effort to break up convoys coming from across France.

The Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria have also seen copycat movements, and Belgian authorities said Monday they had intercepted 30 vehicles as police scrambled to stop a convoy of trucks.

Canadian police over the weekend cleared a blockade on the Ambassador Bridge, which handles an estimated 25 percent of trade with the United States, and had disrupted business in the world's largest economy.

Truckers Dig In

Monday morning in Ottawa, as a deep freeze rolled in, protesters remained defiant despite threats of jail and fines of up to Can$100,000 (US$80,000).

Leaving "is not in my plans," Phil Rioux, behind the wheel of a large truck, told AFP.

"It's by maintaining the pressure that we have a better chance of achieving our goal," the 29-year-old explained.

"There are other customs checkpoints that are blocked, more will be blocked elsewhere," he added.

Earlier Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the lifting of vaccine passport requirements by March 1 in the province -- following in Alberta and Saskatchewan's footsteps.

Ontario, Canada's populous province, had reimposed at the end of December among the most restrictive health measures in the world.

"We're going to get rid of the passports," Ford told a news conference, explaining that the vast majority of people were vaccinated and that the peak of cases sparked by the Omicron variant had passed.

Meanwhile, Ottawa residents were growing more frustrated, saying the protest has made them prisoners in their own homes.

Most businesses downtown are also closed or have had almost no customers after officials warned residents to stay clear of the volatile protests.

"It's a little quieter now, there are less honking but it's annoying... (because) there's no other way to get to work than by walking" past the demonstrations, said Haley, a young woman on her way to work who declined to give her last name.

Like thousands of counter-protesters who blocked more trucks from entering the downtown this weekend, she called for the prime minister to end the crisis.

Key Border Bridge Still Blocked As Anti-Vax Protesters Refuse To Disperse

Windsor (Canada) (AFP) - Canadian demonstrators led by truckers angry over Covid-19 restrictions defied police and kept occupying a key bridge Saturday, while thousands more rallied in the capital as a two-week-old protest showed no signs of abating.

The demonstrations have inspired copycat protests that are now spreading around the globe, including to France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Australia.

In Ontario, where authorities have declared a state of emergency, the provincial supreme court had ordered truckers to end their blockade of the strategic Ambassador Bridge, which links the city of Windsor in Canada to Detroit, Michigan in the United States.

The protest has forced major automakers in both countries to halt or scale back production and Washington on Friday urged Ottawa to use its federal powers to end the blockade.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised "an increasingly robust police intervention," adding that borders cannot remain closed and "this conflict must end."

Canadian police, backed by armored vehicles, began clearing the bridge, taking down tents erected in traffic lanes and persuading some drivers to move their trucks.

But by Saturday evening, after hours of facing off against the demonstrators, the police had not completely cleared the span. Most of the cars and trucks blocking it were removed but hundreds of people refused to budge.

Windsor police spokesman Jason Bellaire said the aim was to clear the bridge peacefully, but he could not say if it would be cleared by the end of the day. There were no immediate reports of arrests Saturday.

The Ambassador Bridge is vital to the US and Canadian auto industries, carrying more than 25 percent of merchandise exported by both countries.

Two other US-Canada border crossings, one in Manitoba province and one in Alberta, remain blocked by protests.

'I'm not dead'

In Ottawa, crowds of thousands packed the streets of the city center, the epicenter of the movement, blaring horns, playing music, dancing and drinking hot coffee against the bitter cold. Very few police were on hand.

"I've been supporting the cause from the beginning," said 38-year-old Marc-Andre Mallette.

"I'm not vaccinated and I'm not dead," added Mallette, a sewer worker from the town of St.-Armand, near the US border.

Truckers originally converged on Ottawa to press their demand for an end to a vaccination requirement affecting truckers crossing the international border.

But the movement has spread, as the protesters -- mostly insisting they want to protect their freedoms, but some displaying swastikas or Confederate flags -- now seek an end to all vaccine mandates, whether imposed by the federal or provincial governments.

Anti-Trudeau signs and chants have become common along the clogged Ottawa streets.

Political opponents say the prime minister has been far too slow to bring the protests to an end.

Trudeau has repeatedly insisted the protesters represent a small -- if noisy -- fraction of a population that has largely followed vaccination requirements and guidance.

But anti-Covid measures in some provinces have been more restrictive than in much of the world, and the truckers' message has resonated more widely than authorities expected.

One opinion survey found that a third of Canadians support the protest movement, while 44 percent say they at least understand the truckers' frustrations.

Protest in Paris

Since the movement began, some central Canadian provinces have announced plans to end mask and vaccine requirements in coming weeks, with the numbers of Covid-19 cases falling. But the two most populous provinces -- Ontario and Quebec -- have yet to follow suit.

The truckers have found support among conservatives and vaccine mandate opponents across the globe, even as Covid measures are being rolled back in many places.

In Paris on Saturday, police fired tear gas and issued hundreds of fines in an effort to break up convoys of vehicles coming from across France in a protest over Covid restrictions and rising living costs.

While some protesters made it to the glitzy Champs-Elysees, they were unable to block the city's streets.

In the Netherlands, a vehicle convoy brought The Hague's city center to a standstill in another Canada-style protest.

In Switzerland, hundreds of protesters marched in Zurich to protest Covid-19 restrictions, while several thousand others rallied against them, Swiss media reported. Both rallies were illegal, and police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

In Australia, an estimated 10,000 protesters marched through capital the Canberra to the parliament building to decry vaccine mandates.

And in New Zealand, anti-mandate activists have been camped on the lawns of parliament in Wellington for days in a protest inspired by the Canadian convoy.

Anti-Vax Anti-Semitism: Swastika Seen At Mandate Protest With GOP Candidate

An anti-vaccine protester with a swastika drawn on a sign was standing prominently next to New York Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino at a rally on Sunday, the latest incident in which a Republican candidate or elected official has been associated with anti-Semitic comparisons of vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.

The protester was one of around 100 demonstrators who gathered to protest a bill sponsored by New York state Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who is Jewish, that would mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students in New York. The rally was held outside Dinowitz's office in the Bronx. Dinowitz called the display of the symbol "repugnant and offensive."

Astorino claimed later that he didn't see the sign — which was just feet away from where he was speaking."I had no idea until I saw this photo. If I'd seen it I'd have told them to take sign down," Astorino tweeted Sunday night in response to Dinowitz. "No comparison to those atrocities & yes, I've always condemned anti-Semitism. But my offer still stands, Jeff. Have the guts to meet w/ me & learn why so many parents oppose your mandate."

This is not the first example of a Republican official being associated with antisemitic anti-vaccine advocates or even going as far as to compare efforts to provide the public with free, safe, and effective vaccines against COVID-19 to the actions of Nazis in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, who rounded up millions of Jews, Roma, disabled people, LGBTQ people, and political dissidents and systematically murdered them.

In October, Kansas GOP state Rep. Brenda Landwehr called mask mandates "racism against the modern day Jew" during a hearing in the state Legislature on COVID safety measures, saying Jews represent "anyone who disagrees." She said that she had heard the words, "We all need to go down a path" during the hearing and asked, "Where have we heard those words before? Well, recently I heard 'em on a documentary about the Germans and what happened to the Jews."

Kansas Republican leaders finally condemned her comments two weeks later after an outcry about similar comments made by another Kansas Republican.

GOP members of Congress have also made the comparison.

In May, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said vaccine and mask requirements were "just like" the Holocaust. She later visited to the Holocaust museum and admitted her comparisons were offensive, but has begun to use them again in recent weeks, railing against "vaccine Nazis."

In July, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) called people looking to help get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 "Needle Nazis." The Auschwitz Memorial in Poland responded at the time, "Instrumentalization of the tragedy of all people who between 1933-45 suffered, were humiliated, tortured & murdered by the hateful totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany to argue against vaccination that saves human lives is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline."

And in August, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) posted and then deleted a tweet that contained an image of an arm tattooed with numbers and compared so-called vaccine passports, requirements that people prove their vaccination status to attend events or enter indoor spaces, to the tattoos Nazis forcibly branded into the arms of prisoners in concentration camps.

The GOP's anti-vaccine rhetoric has led to extreme polarization among those who are and are not getting the vaccine.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in September found that 90% of Democrats had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while just 58% of Republicans were at least partially vaccinated. Nearly one-quarter of Republicans, or 23%, said they'd "definitely not" get the vaccine, while just 4% of Democrats said the same.

Experts say lower vaccination rates are enabling the virus to continue to spread and leaving the world vulnerable to new variants of the virus that may be deadlier or resistant to the vaccines currently available.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Anti-Vax Protest Leader: Mandates Are 'Worse' Than Nazi Threat To Jews

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Scientologist Leigh Dundas, who organized last Thursday's anti-vaccine protest which resulted in a car plowing into five people on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, called employers requiring workers to be vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus worse than the threat the Jews faced in Hitler's Germany right before the Holocaust.

Well over 750,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, most of them after the highly-effective and extraordinarily safe vaccines first became available.

Dundas, who calls herself a human rights attorney, was among the speakers at her "Nationwide Walkout" march.

"Today we face a bigger threat, I believe, than the Jews did in the late 1930s in Eastern Europe," Dundas yelled into a megaphone on Thursday.

"I believe it is worse than child sex slavery, it is worse than every abuse we have heard about in our history books," Dundas continued. "I believe, I actually believe it is worse than war, because this threat is not just coming for one group – it is coming for all groups."

Dundas claims her nonprofit, Advocates for Citizens' Rights, "operates exclusively for the promotion of social welfare; particularly, the preservation of citizens' fundamental rights as protected by the United States Constitution, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and the Nuremberg Code."

Dundas was at the U.S. Capitol the day before the insurrection, "telling the crowd that if Vice President Mike Pence didn't vote to throw out Electoral College results Americans would have to choose to live as 'slaves' or to 'rise up' just as they did during the American Revolution," according to an Orange County Register report in January.

"Any alleged American who acted in a turncoat fashion and sold us out and committed treason, we would be well within our rights to take 'em out back and shoot 'em or hang 'em," Dundas had said.