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Repeat of protest that jammed Canada capital called off

(AFP)

A February return of the trucker-led protests that brought Canada’s capital to a standstill and disrupted trade last year has been called off, according to a lead organizer.

James Bauder, founder of the anti-government protest group Canada Unity, which helped bring thousands of protesters in big rigs to Ottawa in February 2022, said in a statement that a repeat demonstration was cancelled.

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He said he was not going ahead with the protests because he could not “guarantee public safety” and that participants risked severe sanctions. 

He also cited “several security breaches and personal character attacks” on himself and other organizers, without providing details.

Bauder recently announced he would lead protests to mark the anniversary of the 2022 demonstrations in Ottawa, later changing the venue to Winnipeg, sparking concern from residents and politicians in both cities. 

Police in Ottawa — criticized for a disorganized response to the 2022 rallies — said protest vehicles would be blocked from areas of the capital and that there would be “zero tolerance for disturbances.”

Ontario province also passed a law last April prohibiting the blocking of key transportation infrastructure such as airports, roads and bridges — backed by fines of up to Can$500,000 (US$370,000) and one year in jail.

Despite Bauder’s announcement, another organizer, Ron Clark, said on Monday he would press ahead with protests “as planned.”

The first iteration of the self-styled “Freedom Convoy” of truckers rolled into the capital in early 2022 from across Canada to express anger at Covid vaccine mandates.

As solidarity rallies popped up — blocking trade corridors including a bridge to Detroit that is the busiest international crossing in North America — their demands expanded to a broader rejection of pandemic restrictions and an anti-establishment agenda.

After three weeks of disruptions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers to dislodge the protesters.

Bauder was among nearly 200 people arrested when police moved in, and was charged with mischief, obstruction and disobeying a court order.

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