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LIVE: Mounties close access to Pacific Highway border again because of vaccine mandate protesters


The protesters in several dozen vehicles, mostly cars and pickup trucks, were met with counter protesters early Saturday. By evening, the border crossing was reopened.

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UPDATE: As of 8 p.m. Saturday, Surrey RCMP said the majority of protesters and vehicles had departed the area. A small group of protesters remained at the corner of 176 Street and 8th Avenue, on the sidewalk.

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Traffic was moving on 176 Street in all directions and the public is able to access the border crossing. Vehicle road checks will remain in place.

Investigations remain underway into unlawful activity, including reports of intimidation and alleged assault against members of the media.

Police will be maintaining a large presence throughout the evening.


Earlier Saturday:

Mounties in Surrey have again closed access to the Pacific Highway Border Crossing because of vaccine mandate protesters.

In a statement Saturday afternoon, RCMP said due to increased protest activity in the area, 176th Street is closed to all traffic from 8th Avenue.

As a preventive measure and to help ensure public and officer safety, vehicle and pedestrians can’t access the Pacific Highway Border Crossing at this time, the RCMP said. Travellers are advised to use alternative border crossings during this service disruption.

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Hundreds of people protest mask and vaccine mandates at 176th and 8th Avenue in Surrey, BC Saturday, February 19, 2022. The Pacific Highway border crossing was closed by police due to the size of the protest. Jason Payne/PNG
Hundreds of people protest mask and vaccine mandates at 176th and 8th Avenue in Surrey, BC Saturday, February 19, 2022. The Pacific Highway border crossing was closed by police due to the size of the protest. Jason Payne/PNG Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Several dozen vehicles, mostly cars and pickups, met early Saturday alongside Hastings Park on the south side of Hastings Street near the PNE.

Protesters, including many families with kids, waved Canadian flags — though the atmosphere was muted in the cold and rainy weather compared with past large and noisy demonstrations. They had planned to go to Downtown Vancouver on Saturday but that plan was cancelled in favour of returning to the Pacific Highway crossing at 176th Street.

Several people provided participants with conflicting destinations and at one point a man — apparently trying to take the lead of the convoy — gathered people around for an angry, profanity-laced speech before others in the group asked him to leave.

Several dozen anti vaccine mandate protesters, marshalling for a ‘freedom rally’, are met by an equal number of counter protesters at E. Hastings and Renfrew Streets Saturday morning, February 19, 2022. The police eventually stepped in to keep the groups separate as the convoy left. Jason Payne/PNG
Several dozen anti vaccine mandate protesters, marshalling for a ‘freedom rally’, are met by an equal number of counter protesters at E. Hastings and Renfrew Streets Saturday morning, February 19, 2022. The police eventually stepped in to keep the groups separate as the convoy left. Jason Payne/PNG Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Crowds of counter-protesters gathered on the corner of Renfrew and Hastings streets with signs asking people to honk for vaccines. Many were local neighbourhood residents, brought out, they said, because they didn’t want to see people spreading fear, misinformation and hate. Later Saturday, police intervened during mounting aggression against the media at the border crossing.

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“I encountered these folks by myself a couple of weekends ago,” said Laura, who lived in nearby North Burnaby. “I felt pretty powerless by myself. So I wanted to be here to be part of a group taking a stand. We’re sending a strong message that this is not acceptable.”

Hundreds of people protest mask and vaccine mandates at 176th and 8th Avenue in Surrey, BC Saturday, February 19, 2022. The Pacific Highway border crossing was closed by police due to the size of the protest.
Hundreds of people protest mask and vaccine mandates at 176th and 8th Avenue in Surrey, BC Saturday, February 19, 2022. The Pacific Highway border crossing was closed by police due to the size of the protest. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Braden, another neighbourhood resident, said he had never participated in a protest before but felt it was important to come out.

“The convoy is really upsetting to see,” he said. “Obviously we’d all like the (COVID-19) situation to be done with. I see this (convoy) as putting us in danger. I want Canadians to live happy healthy lives and have these freedoms, and to me this is in exact opposition to that.”

The duelling protest groups kept their distance from one another at first, though tempers flared and arguments broke out as anti-mandate protesters made their way into the crowds on the corner.

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At one point, counter-protesters used bikes and their bodies to block the path of convoy vehicles. Police quickly took control, though it led to part of the convoy heading east on Hastings, while other vehicles continued north along Renfrew and back to the border.

The police eventually stepped in to keep the groups separate as the convoy left. Jason Payne/PNG
The police eventually stepped in to keep the groups separate as the convoy left. Jason Payne/PNG Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

“Surrey RCMP is aware and continuously monitoring the protest activity that has been allegedly planned for today in the area of the Pacific Highway Border Crossing,” Mounties said in a news release shortly before 11 a.m. “While police respect the right to protest, enforcement will be taken in the event protest activity becomes unlawful.”

On Saturday morning, RCMP Sgt. Elenore Sturko said buses had begun dropping off protesters near the border and that Mounties have been in contact with organizers to communicate appropriate areas for the protests, maintain public safety and keep the border open.

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Several dozen anti vaccine mandate protesters, marshalling for a ‘freedom rally’, are met by an equal number of counter protesters at E. Hastings and Renfrew Streets Saturday morning, February 19, 2022.
Several dozen anti vaccine mandate protesters, marshalling for a ‘freedom rally’, are met by an equal number of counter protesters at E. Hastings and Renfrew Streets Saturday morning, February 19, 2022. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Several RCMP checkpoints, including one along 176th Street just north of the Peace Arch Border Crossing, have been maintained since a convoy of big rigs and passenger vehicles from the Interior flooded the area last weekend.

“We are aware that there have been social media posts about additional convoys this weekend,” Surrey RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Vanessa Munn said Friday. “We have a contingency plan in place — although we cannot disclose what it entails. We have resources we can use if needed.”

Police in Ottawa moved in on the anti-government protest Thursday night, arresting 70 people on various offences, alongside Vancouver police, RCMP and officers from other Canadian cities.

Last weekend, the main route to the border was closed and four people were arrested after vaccine mandate protesters set up a blockade.

Vaccine mandate protests and counter-protesters at the corner of Hastings and Renfrew on Feb. 19, 2022. Jason Payne/PNG
Vaccine mandate protests and counter-protesters at the corner of Hastings and Renfrew on Feb. 19, 2022. Jason Payne/PNG Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

— With files from Sarah Grochowski and The Canadian Press

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