Protest near Manitoba Legislature dwindles as Winnipeg police deadline passes

A handful of protesters and a couple of vehicles were all that remained Wednesday evening of a protest that blocked part of Memorial Boulevard for nearly three weeks, after Winnipeg police issued a deadline for them to clear out or face consequences.

Winnipeg police announced Tuesday that protesters need to be gone by 5 p.m. Wednesday or face enforcement

Protest near Manitoba Legislature dwindles

1 year ago
Duration 2:23
A handful of protesters and a couple of vehicles were all that remained Wednesday evening of a protest that blocked part of Memorial Boulevard for nearly three weeks, after Winnipeg police issued a deadline for them to clear out or face consequences.

A handful of protesters and a couple of vehicles were all that remained Wednesday evening of a protest that blocked part of Memorial Boulevard for nearly three weeks, after Winnipeg police issued a deadline for them to clear out or face consequences.

Earlier Wednesday, police said they were confident protesters would leave by the 5 p.m. cutoff but said they had plans for what to do if any of the semi-trailers, farm equipment and other vehicles stationed in the area, just north of the legislature grounds, did not move.

"I can assure you that we have plans in place, should that present itself as a concern," Const. Rob Carver said during a police news conference Wednesday morning. "But I am not prepared to discuss what those are."

As of a few minutes after 5 p.m., a truck and an RV were still parked on Memorial Boulevard. A handful of protesters with signs also remained — along with a growing crowd of people with signs of their own taunting the protesters.

A few police vehicles were also seen in the area, though no enforcement appeared to be happening.

Winnipeg police notified protest organizers on Tuesday that they would have to leave the Broadway and Memorial Boulevard area by 5 p.m. Wednesday or face charges and other enforcement penalties.

Some protesters remained at the site of a protest in the area of Broadway and Memorial Boulevard on Wednesday afternoon, though most trucks and other large vehicles had left. Police ordered protesters to have vehicles gone by 5 p.m. Wednesday. (CBC)

To date, no protesters have been charged, Carver said at Wednesday morning's news conference.

Some participants were seen packing up and leaving the area Tuesday night and during the day on Wednesday.

That included protester Jesse Johnson, who was seen packing items into the back of a white truck and expressing frustration about the move.

"I'm leaving because everybody else is leaving," he said Wednesday.

"We have a right to peaceful protest. All these people want is for the government to come out and listen to their voice. They've come to the foot of the government, but yet they refuse to come out and speak to them."

Jesse Johnson said he was packing up and leaving the protest after police said anyone who stayed past a Wednesday evening deadline would face consequences. (Radio-Canada)

Protesters have had vehicles blocking sections of Memorial Boulevard north of the legislature since Feb. 4 as part of countrywide protests against vaccine mandates, pandemic restrictions and more.

Carver said throughout, police have attempted to balance respecting the right to peaceful protest with mitigating potential impacts on community members.

Asked why police decided to tell protesters to leave now, he suggested one reason was recent events in Ottawa that resulted in police clearing thousands of protesters from streets in that city.

Winnipeg police also realized in discussions with protest organizers that they "would not be able to assist protesters in achieving the goals that they had stated," Carver said.

He said he believes through the discussions, the protesters also realized that it "was looking like those goals wouldn't be achieved by this strategy."

"Because we've developed a really good dialogue with people, I think when we both reached that conclusion, what looked obvious to everyone was that the end of this was approaching."

Asked to elaborate on those goals, Carver said he could not speak to the motivations of protesters.

Kris Buschau-Lapointe said while protesters like her were disappointed to have to leave, they won't give up. (CBC)

Kris Buschau-Lapointe said Wednesday that while she and other protesters were disappointed to be leaving the site, they won't give up.

"It's sad, but we're not defeated. We're Canadians and we're going to stand up," Buschau-Lapointe said, holding a sign covered with images of red poppies that read "lest we forget."

"It isn't just about this one piece of property right here. It's about freedom on any street corner in Manitoba and across Canada."

Differing views on protest complaints

The Winnipeg protest was the subject of dozens of noise complaints from nearby residents. Carver said Wednesday "lots of them were repeat complaints from a relatively small group."

"That's not to minimize the impact that the noise has had on those citizens or in any way try to delegitimize their complaints," Carver said.

Among those relieved to see the group packing up was area resident Autumn Hartle, who said her daughter was kept up past her bedtime by loud honking during the early days of the protest.

"It's been awful," Hartle said.

"That's not a peaceful protest to me, and that's not something that I can get behind and support. And I think their messages are all over the place — so see you later."

Area resident Autumn Hartle stood with a sign to send off the protesters on Wednesday, which read, 'Na-na-na-na, hey hey hey, goodbye!' (Radio-Canada)

Ernie Stacey, who lives a block away, said he doesn't understand why police didn't tell protesters to go home before now.

"They should have went in earlier and did it," Stacey said.

"I've been hearing the horns all the time."

Some municipal and provincial politicians previously raised concerns about the impact of the protests on their constituents. 

Police worked with protesters, who in time agreed to reduce loud honking to between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., then to only two-minute intervals twice a day, Carver said.

Most trucks and other large vehicles had been cleared from the site of a protest in the area of Broadway and Memorial Boulevard by early Wednesday afternoon. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

He said he is aware some people have complained about being "accosted" by protesters but said generally, that's not what police have seen.

Officers he has spoken with stationed nearby say "this is one of the most reasonable and most welcoming group of protesters they've ever encountered."

The protest is part of a series of protests across the country that have included blockades at ports of entry at the Canada-U.S. border.

The protests started against a federal vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers, but broadened to include demands for an end to all pandemic restrictions and protections, with some protesters calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to resign.

WATCH | Police say convoy protesters have been reasonable:

Convoy protesters 'one of the most reasonable' group of protesters Winnipeg police have encountered: Carver

1 year ago
Duration 1:29
Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver says police monitoring the convoy protest outside the Manitoba Legislative Building have reported participants to be welcoming and reasonable.

Winnipeg protest organizers said in a statement Wednesday morning that they will move vehicles off Memorial Boulevard and Broadway.

However, protesters say they intend to stay in Memorial Park. 

Carver said vehicles that pay for parking nearby are entitled to stay. That's what protesters will do, according to co-organizer Caleb Brown.

Some vehicles will remain but the "trucks are going home," he said. Infrastructure will also go, according to Brown.

"Truckers started this, right? They had the braveness, the boldness to stand up against what they felt was wrong, and so we're going to continue that," he said.

"We're going to try to not push our opinions. We want to be able to be here so people can come and dialogue. It's all about creating that dialogue, having a forum that we can understand each other."

Caleb Brown speaks at the site of the protests at Memorial Boulevard and Broadway Wednesday morning. (Radio-Canada)

A statement from organizers Wednesday called vaccine mandates unscientific and discriminatory, and said protesters remain "deeply concerned" about the use of the federal Emergencies Act, which was revoked later that afternoon.

Trudeau invoked the act on Feb. 14, which gave the federal government and police more power in dealing with the protests. 

Days later, hundreds of officers from multiple police forces moved thousands of protesters off of downtown Ottawa streets that they had occupied for weeks.

The act passed a crucial vote in the House of Commons on Monday. Revoking its use on Wednesday afternoon, Trudeau said "the situation is no longer an emergency."

Carver said he believes the Winnipeg protest will end peacefully, and thinks that's because police remained in contact with protesters throughout.

"We're not going to make everyone happy for sure ... but this has been the least impactful of any protest that I've seen in the country, and I can tell you that our officers remain proud of how we've handled it."

WATCH | Winnipeg police news conference on convoy protest:

Winnipeg Police provide update on convoy protest

1 year ago
Duration 33:25
Winnipeg police provide an update one day after announcing protesters set up outside the Manitoba Legislative Building since Feb. 4 must leave by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

With files from Radio-Canada