Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers have begun an enforcement action targeting a blockade of commercial trucks and other vehicles at the U.S.-Canada border in Coutts, Alberta, that have been protesting COVID-19 restrictions since Saturday.
RCMP said it took the action after failing to reach an agreement with the protesters, warning that those who remain could face arrest.
“We thought we had a path to resolution. The protesters eventually chose not to comply,” the RCMP said in a statement.
It was not clear what the RCMP plans to do, but as of the late afternoon Tuesday, protesters and vehicles remained.
While the blockade was organized, in part, to protest vaccine mandates for truckers at the border, it left dozens of cross-border drivers stranded near Sweet Grass, Montana, and forced others to detour to other crossings.
“We have worked hard and dedicatedly and are now losing money and time due to this blockade,” driver Sam Chahal said from his truck at a virtual news conference hosted by Alberta provincial lawmakers from the New Democratic Party, which has opposed the protests.
On Monday, a group of drivers stranded in the U.S. appeared in a video shared on social media pleading for officials to intervene.
“Please help us out. There are a lot of drivers sitting here. They don’t have anything to eat,” a driver says.
Reece Evans, the general manager of Alberta-based Evans Trucking, which has two trucks at the protest, acknowledged the impact on drivers and carriers who aren’t involved.
“I don’t want to see anybody hurt, but unfortunately, there’s a cost of war, and, you know, we’re fighting for freedom right now,” he said from the blockade. “So at this point, there’s going to be some inconvenience, there’s going to be some costs.”
The blockade came amid a week of protests and convoys — with the largest rolling into Canada’s capital, Ottawa.
While the protests were triggered by the U.S. and Canadian governments’ vaccine mandates on cross-border truckers, they are now seeking an amorphous collection of demands related to measures to combat COVID-19.
The protest in Ottawa, dubbed the Freedom Convoy, drew thousands of protesters to Ottawa who overwhelmingly outnumbered the truckers. While a large number of the protesters have left, hundreds of trucks remain.