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After Canadian police chased away most protesters in the capital of Ottawa, questions remain over whether those who left town without being arrested will have their bank accounts frozen or face future criminal charges as law enforcement vowed continued investigations in coming months.
Ottawa police said Sunday that 191 people had been arrested during efforts to clear protesters from what authorities deemed to be a secure area of city blocks. Of those arrested, 103 were charged – the main charges are mischief and obstructing police. Eighty-nine were released with conditions, and the others have been released unconditionally. Seventy-nine vehicles have been towed, according to Sunday’s numbers.
“I’m representing the handful of people who are either in custody right now or been released from custody, and then we are going to be representing them in court,” David Anber, an Ottawa-based criminal lawyer, told Fox News Digital on Monday. “They’ve been pursued by the government and accused of crimes or a quasi-criminal offenses. And my job is to now come in here and defend them of those charges. And then there’s sort of the second category of the people who might not have been charged with anything but were mistreated by the police in a way that was contrary to the code of conduct.”
At the height of the Canadian “Freedom Convoy,” hundreds of truckers and sometimes thousands of protesters clogged the streets of downtown Ottawa by Parliament to protest vaccine mandates, coronavirus passports and other government restrictions continuing since the onset of the pandemic.
Though just under 200 people were arrested, and police erected about 100 checkpoints in the now-emptied downtown area, interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell promised Sunday to go after the hundreds if not thousands of protesters already on their way back home elsewhere in Canada.
“If you are involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges,” Bell warned at Sunday’s press conference.
“This investigation will go on for months to come. It has many, many different streams both from a federal financial level, from a provincial licensing level, from a criminal code level, from a municipal breach of court order, breach of court injunction level,” he continued. “It will be a complicated and time-consuming investigation that will go on for a period of time. You have my commitment that that investigation will continue, and we will hold people accountable for taking our streets over.”
Of the hundreds of people who Anber said have contacted him, he told Fox News Digital the majority he has spoken to who have either participated in the protest or made small donations in support via GiveSendGo or earlier to GoFundMe, have not had their accounts frozen yet, but the fear is there.
“I’ll say this is that the powers to freeze and allow the banks to freeze assets and bank accounts and things of that nature without there being a warrant or any other, you know, judicial authorization, that’s very unprecedented,” Anber told Fox News Digital Monday. “It’s unprecedented not only for Canada’s, unprecedented for anywhere in the free world.”
Canadian lawmakers in Parliament will vote Monday night whether to allow police to continue to use emergency powers. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau argued in an address earlier Monday that the emergency powers are still needed despite the progress police have made.
“We didn’t want to use the Emergencies Act. It’s never something to turn to without serious consideration,” Trudeau said Monday. “But after weeks of dangerous and unlawful activities, after weeks of people being harassed in their neighborhoods and small businesses forced to close, after billions of dollars were stalled in trade, putting people’s jobs and livelihoods at risk, after the National War Memorial was desecrated, after evidence of increased ideological motivated violent extremism activity across the country…”
He continued, “After a flood of misinformation and disinformation washed over Canada, including from foreign sources, after these illegal blockades and occupation received disturbing amounts of foreign funding to destabilize Canada’s democracy, it became clear that local and provincial authorities needed more tools to restore order and keep people safe.”
In addition to defending those facing charges in connection to their participation in the protest, Anber said he also plans on filing professional standards complaints against specific officers over their handling of protesters during the police crackdown this weekend. He tweeted a video filmed by one of his clients who claims police confronted her for walking to buy coffee in what was deemed a red zone.
“The police again have been conducting themselves as though they have unlimited powers to do whatever they feel is necessary to restore order,” Anber said. “That’s just simply not the case.”
He said it appeared that police were frustrated after the owners of the same coffee shop had refused to let them inside without a warrant to arrest someone over their participation in the trucker protest.
According to Anber, the protest in Ottawa was different from what happened at the border. For almost a week, the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing, the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, was blocked. It sees more than 25% of the trade between the two countries. Authorities moved to reopen the border posts, but Ottawa police did little but issue warnings until Friday.
“There was no – there was never a blockade in Ottawa. The word ‘blockade’ is a charged word,” Anber told Fox News Digital. “At the border, in other places in Canada, there were things that could be legitimately characterized as a blockade. They were preventing supply chain and movement of people and goods. The protests in Ottawa, for the most part, every road that was jammed up with trucks left a lane of traffic to allow emergency vehicles and other people to navigate the city.”
“I worked out there – about 50 meters south of where the epicenter of the protest was, and I had no trouble navigating myself to and from work every day,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.