5 arrested in Vancouver as rocks thrown, cars kicked during pandemic rallies, police say
B.C. rallies against pandemic measures, counter-protests among those across Canada on Saturday
Vancouver police made five arrests Saturday as thousands took to the streets to protest pandemic mandates and restrictions, and counter-protesters tried to block their movements.
A poster for Saturday's Vancouver rally described it as "The Media is the Virus Convoy." Counter-protests were held as residents criticized the police response to the nationwide rallies.
The Vancouver Police Department said Saturday morning that counter-protesters met the convoy on Terminal Avenue and traffic was at a standstill as of 11 a.m. PT.
As a result, the convoy split into multiple routes through the city and did not thin out until around 6 p.m., according to police.
The convoy travelled past Vancouver General Hospital, Mount Saint Joseph Hospital and St. Paul's Hospital.
'Violent behaviour and unlawful conduct'
Vancouver police said in a release Saturday evening that, "while most protesters were peaceful, some had to be arrested for violent behaviour and unlawful conduct."
Five arrests, for mischief, were related to either the main protest or the counter-protest after police responded to rocks and eggs being thrown, cars being kicked, and nails being strewn on roadways.
"Protesters flooded the downtown core, caused traffic gridlock and sparked skirmishes throughout the city," said the release.
There was a similar protest in Victoria outside the B.C. Legislative Assembly, and police asked people to avoid the area until about 5 p.m. Later Victoria police said there were no major incidents or arrests made in relation to the event.
Aman Grewal, president of the B.C. Nurses' Union, called the traffic disruption and noise generated by the protesters "unacceptable."
"[Last week's disruptions] impacted our community in terms of our patients and our nurses who are at the health sites trying to provide care," she told CBC News.
"I've heard stories where, you know, it's impacted the patients who are just wanting to go outside to get a breath of fresh air … there's been constant noise going on for endless hours."
Grewal said the protests were "morally distressing" for B.C.'s health-care workers as the system is stretched to the limit during the fifth wave of the pandemic.
"I hope that the City of Vancouver and the [hospitals] are going to make sure that there is an element of safety provided to our members and to our citizens of B.C."
In a statement Friday, Mayor Kennedy Stewart condemned the anti-vaccine mandate protests, saying he had been briefed by the VPD and emergency planners on the demonstration.
"While every Canadian has a right to peaceful and respectful protest, nobody has the right to promote hate, jeopardize the safety of our communities, or interfere with access for patients, staff, or first responders," he said.
"Hate has no place in our city. We all have to stand together against hate in all its forms, including when it targets frontline and health-care workers."
A spokesperson for the B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) also said extra staff would be available to reroute ambulances and emergency staff if necessary.
"In general, if there is traffic congestion impeding ambulances during protests, BCEHS can request the assistance of police."
Paramedics spoke out against the protest last weekend, saying they severely impacted patients accessing care.
Several standoffs between convoy supporters and counter protesters in Vancouver are taking place along Main Street in Chinatown <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcnewsbc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cbcnewsbc</a> <a href="https://t.co/2UXFid3Y4C">pic.twitter.com/2UXFid3Y4C</a>—@CoryCorreia
B.C. has passed a law making it illegal to disrupt health-care services within a 20-metre buffer zone around hospitals and other health-care institutions.
Grewal said the noise generated by the anti-vaccine mandate protesters were affecting nurses and patients despite the law.
In a statement, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the protests over the last week were "regrettable" and called on the police to enforce the law around bubble zones.
"Any form of harassment of health-care workers will not be tolerated and is completely unacceptable."
With files from Baneet Braich