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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 on Hastings Street in Vancouver.

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

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

As a preventive measure and to help ensure public and officer safety, vehicle and pedestrians cannot access the Pacific Highway Border Crossing at this time, the RCMP said.

Travellers are advised to use alternative border crossings during this service disruption.

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

Several dozen vehicles, mostly cars and pickup trucks, 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 downtown Saturday but that was cancelled in favour of returning to the Pacific Highway border crossing at 176th Street.

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Several people provided participants with conflicting destinations and at one point a man – apparently attempting 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.

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.

“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.”

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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 as putting us in danger,” Braden said. “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.

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.

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“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 have 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.

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.

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“We are aware that there have been social media posts about additional convoys this weekend,” Surrey RCMP spokesperson 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.

More to come…

—with files from Sarah Grochowski and The Canadian Press

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