Small group of pedestrians, cyclists bring convoy to a standstill in Edmonton's river valley
'We all have the right of assembly,' says one of the counter-protesters
A vehicle convoy making its way into Edmonton's downtown Saturday afternoon ran up against an unexpected roadblock — a couple of dozen people on foot and bikes who brought the convoy to a grinding halt.
Photos posted on Twitter at about 1:30 p.m. showed a long line of eastbound trucks stretching down River Valley Road. In their path were counter-protesters standing in the pedestrian crosswalk at Fortway Drive.
The protesters were wearing masks and carrying signs with slogans like "Honk if you love vaccines" and "Let the babies nap."
"Well, we decided to block one artery of the convoys today," Jason Rockwell said in a post on Twitter. "We all have the right of assembly."
Rockwell said he and a group of concerned citizens got together to block the road.
He said the counter-protest ended after about an hour, after Edmonton police got involved. Rockwell said he was troubled by police actions at the counter-protest.
Around 30 officers slowly began to arrive, according to Rockwell. He said someone at the counter-protest was told that if they did not get off the road, they could be arrested and charged with mischief.
The Edmonton Police Service had gone to social media to ask demonstrators to stay off the roadway to allow traffic to flow.
"I do not know how it is that the Edmonton Police Service can justify making those statements to us and letting those convoys free wheel through the city on routes that are obviously not dedicated truck routes," he said in an interview.
CBC requested a response to Rockwell's claims that the police response varied greatly between protests.
"Citizens were intentionally blocking and impeding traffic on River Valley Road and were asked to move onto the sidewalk to ensure their safety and allow traffic to flow. The citizens were cooperative with this request," a police spokesperson said in a statement.
Rockwell said that they were approached by a few people in the convoy to ask what they were doing. Some other convoy participants said some nasty things, but their physical safety was not threatened, he said.
Third week of protests
Meanwhile up the hill in Edmonton's downtown, hundreds of protesters, on foot or inside a convoy of trucks and other vehicles, gathered for the third straight weekend of demonstrations protesting mandatory vaccinations and COVID-19 health measures.
Walkers waving signs and flags crowded the sidewalks as they marched from Violet King Henry Plaza near the Alberta Legislature to city hall.
The vehicular convoys, meanwhile, pulled in from staging areas east, west and south of the city, disrupting traffic on major roads like Anthony Henday Drive, St. Albert Trail and Gateway Boulevard.
Many vehicles were honking their horns, ignoring a court injunction sought by the city in a bid to tamp down noise from convoy protesters that has disrupted city residents over the past two weeks.
Edmonton police said they issued 10 tickets to drivers actively involved in the protest Saturday. Sixty more tickets are being mailed to registered owners of other vehicles that were identified as committing an offence, nine of which are related to noise.
"Given the impacts to traffic, officers worked to keep roadways as orderly as possible and to ensure participants dispersed appropriately throughout the day," police said in a statement.
"While [city council] and I fully support the right to peaceful protests, we must set boundaries when it comes to demonstrations that compromise the well-being of local [businesses] and community members," Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said on Twitter Friday.
The injunction, granted Friday by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paul Belzil, prohibits "the frequent or sustained sounding of motor vehicle horns, truck air horns, equipment horns, megaphones and other similar noise-making devices within the boundaries of the city."
It is in effect now and lasts until March 4.
"Please PLEASE enforce this," one Twitter user replied to Sohi's post. "I cannot take another eight hours of honking."
Police say the convoys are expected to tie up traffic on Anthony Henday Drive, Yellowhead Trail, Stony Plain Road, Whitemud Drive, Gateway Blvd, Walterdale Hill, Queen Elizabeth Park Road and the downtown core.
The Freedom Convoy was organized in late January to protest the federal vaccine policy that came into effect on Jan. 15 for truckers crossing the Canada-U.S. border — a group of travellers previously exempt from pandemic entry requirements. One week later, a similar policy took effect in the U.S.
At Coutts, Alta., a blockade of trucks and other large vehicles has stymied traffic to and from the United States since Jan. 29.
Ontario declared a state of emergency on Friday in response to convoy protests that have shut down parts of Ottawa's city core and portions of Windsor's Ambassador Bridge.