Washington DC police have nixed officers’ leave over the next week to prepare for a caravan for Freedom Convoy protesters currently headed toward the nation’s capitol, sources close to the DC police department have revealed.
According to the insiders, the department is currently mobilizing hundreds of its officers to spearhead a large response plan against truck convoys across the nation poised to travel to the US Capitol next week in support of vaccine mandate protests started in Canada late last month that have since spread across the globe, NewsNation reported.
Next week, according to the outlet, forces of 500 officers each day will be formed to comprise civil disturbance units, set to quell the planned demonstrations, if needed. Protests in Canada have remained largely peaceful, with liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blasted as an authoritarian for his attempts to stomp out the protests and stop them from being funded.
To form these DC response teams, the sources said, US Capitol Police have prohibited leave and time off for all its able-bodied officers.
The reports come as American truckers have continued to follow their Canadian counterparts’ lead in organizing a protest against mandates, spurring Facebook to shut down The U.S. Freedom Convoy faction’s Facebook page earlier this month – a move the group’s organizer called ‘censorship at its finest.’
The group, called ‘Convoy to D.C. 2022,’ served as a forum for truckers to plan and coordinate the planned convoy, which organizers say will parade from California to Washington, DC, starting Wednesday, February 23, and is set to arrive at the capitol on March 1.
Since it was deleted on February 2 – with Facebook explaining it was nixed for ‘repeatedly violating our policies around QAnon’ – the group has since created a new Facebook group advertising the planned demonstrations, with several other similar outfits forming on social media as well advertising the same plans.
‘Attention Freedom Convoy lovers!’ their new group, Defeat the Mandates DC, posted earlier this month, days after the original group’s deletion. ‘With our other Freedom Convoy to DC group getting taken down by FB, please join this new group now, network and stay updated because it’s just a matter of time before our new group gets taken down.’
‘Convoy set to take off from California March 1, 2022,’ the post declared.
The message has since spread across social media like wildfire, with other groups expressing similar sentiments, while sharing maps showing the planned route for the cross-country caravan, which, according to their posts, will make stops in cities like Salt Lake City, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Indianapolis on its way to the capitol.
‘Get your flags, posters, cameras and warm clothes ready,’ another Facebook group created ahead of the planned caravan, called Freedom Convoy to DC 2022 Logistics, posted February 6 warning prospective revelers of the dangers they might face during the protest.
‘Please understand everyone that this is a massive undertaking, ensuring many things such as fuel, food, where to park, mechanics, etc. all over the country.’
The revelation regarding the planned protests comes as police in Canada continue to arrest Freedom Convoy truckers who have paralyzed traffic in Ottawa for three weeks in a protest against the country’s vaccine mandates.
Citing the ‘exceptional circumstances’ of the police action, Parliament suspended Friday’s debate on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s emergency powers, sparing the Liberal leader another day of uncomfortable speeches from MPs who fiercely oppose his use of the Emergencies Act.
As dawn broke on Friday, cops carrying automatic weapons and wearing tactical unit uniforms were seen going door to door along a line of trucks, campers and other vehicles parked on Ottawa’s snow-covered streets.
‘Some protesters are surrendering and are being arrested. We ask protesters to remain peaceful and lawful,’ Ottawa police said in an alert.
Some demonstrators were seen being led away in handcuffs. One person being led away was carrying a sign that read ‘Mandate Freedom.’
On Thursday night, police took the first step in the crackdown with the arrests of key protest leaders Tamara Lich, 47, and Christopher Barber, 46.
Lich and Barber were both charged with counseling to commit the offense of mischief, and Barber was additionally charged with counseling to commit the offenses of disobeying a court order and obstructing police. They are both scheduled to appear in court on Friday.
The suspension of Friday’s debate in the House of Commons was due to safety concerns, Speaker Anthony Rota said in notice to MPs, warning them that a police operation was expected and urging them to ‘stay away from the downtown core until further notice.’
The initial schedule called for debate on the motion to confirm Trudeau’s emergency powers through the weekend followed by a vote on Monday night.
House leadership of all parties agreed to the cancellation, with a plan to resume debate on Saturday and vote ‘early next week’ on the motion, which is expected to pass despite vocal opposition from the Conservative minority.
Using powers under the Emergencies Act, Ottawa cops have established a ‘no-go’ zone with 100 checkpoints encircling the Freedom Convoy, cutting them off from support and preventing additional protesters from joining the demonstration blockading the streets around Parliament Hill.
Ottawa Interim Police Chief Steve Bell had vowed that the protests would end this weekend, warning demonstrators: ‘It’s time to go, this is coming to an end.’
The early morning mood on Ottawa’s snow-covered streets was almost one of resignation, and truckers, who refused to give their names, just shrugged their shoulders in response to questions over their concerns about being arrested.
The capital represented the movement’s last stronghold after three weeks of demonstrations and blockades that shut down border crossings into the U.S., caused economic damage to both countries and created a political crisis for Trudeau.
With police and the government facing accusations that they let the protests gain strength and spread, Trudeau on Monday invoked Canada´s Emergencies Act, empowering law enforcement authorities to declare the blockades illegal, tow away trucks, arrest the drivers, suspend their licenses and freeze their bank accounts.
Ottawa police made it clear on Thursday they were preparing to end the protest and remove the more than 300 trucks, with Ottawa’s interim police chief warning: ‘Action is imminent.’
Barber, a truck driver for the last 28 years who led the Saskatchewan portion of the protest convoy that has been in Ottawa for the last three weeks, was walking down the street with several friends when police detained him.
Footage posted on social media showed him being detained. He could be seen smiling calmly as he was patted down and put in a patrol car.
‘Call my wife!’ he said, to a friend who was filming. ‘And put this on social media.’
Lich, 47, widely seen as the main organizer of the protest, was detained on Thursday night as snow fell in Ottawa. She did not resist as she was handcuffed and calmly taken away in a police patrol car.
‘Hold the line,’ she shouted as she was escorted away.
A former fitness instructor who has sung and played guitar in a band called Blind Monday in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Lich was also a senior member of a separatist group that advocated for Canada’s Western provinces to secede from the country.
On Wednesday night, she had posted a tearful video to YouTube telling her supporters that she expected to be arrested imminently.
‘There’s a pretty good chance – I think it’s inevitable at this point – I’ll probably be going somewhere tomorrow where I’ll be getting three square meals a day,’ she said.
‘And that’s OK. I want you to know I’m OK with that.
‘I’ll probably get some sleep.
‘But please stay peaceful. And know that this too shall pass. There will be a tomorrow. And we will get through this.’
Meanwhile, the city’s Light Rail Transit line was suspended Friday in the section that runs underneath Ottawa’s truck blockaded downtown.
The service runs above ground either side of district, and is normally a busy commuter route bringing people in.
Officials have cited weather reasons for the closure, following a prolonged snowfall in the city and temperatures down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
However shutting the downtown service effectively reinforces Ottawa police’s new security zone around the area announced Thursday by Chief Bell.
The truckers, joined by thousands of demonstrators and some 400 vehicles, turned the streets around Parliament into a noisy party zone since first arriving on January 28, in what has become one of the worst crises to hit Trudeau since he took power in 2015.
Police made a handful of arrests Thursday evening, including of Barber, one of the main fundraisers and organizers, after authorities said action was imminent. Barber went without resistance after police told him he was being arrested for mischief.
‘We absolutely are committed to end this unlawful demonstration. We have the plan, we have the commitment, we have the resources,’ Chief Bell told reporters on Thursday.