By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg police stopped an attempt by protesters Monday to enlarge an encampment that has been on the front lawn of the legislature for months, while the provincial government confirmed that some people attached to the camp have been recently arrested.
The encampment was set up in spring and has been adorned with signs and flags highlighting a variety of issues, from the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools to COVID-19 restrictions to conflict in the Middle East.
Originally there was one teepee. A second was added in the summer. The protesters had planned to build a third Monday and put out a call on social media for supporters to help them build a “law lodge.”
When they arrived at the front entrance to the legislature grounds, they were met by a line of more than two dozen officers. Police vehicles, including two wagons each capable of carrying several people, were parked nearby.
“All you cops should go home and study the law,” one protester told police.
“Go home to your families, go home to your children,” said another.
Two people were seen being led away from an area near the encampment by police. The Winnipeg Police Service would not comment on whether any arrests were made, but Manitoba Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said there have been arrests recently.
“Over the past several weeks there has been an escalation of security concerns on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature,” Goertzen said in a prepared written statement.
“These include verbal assaults and threats to staff, visitors and tourists to the building. During this time, security services have observed individuals in possession of weapons, body armour and military-style clothing. Public safety concerns prompted some arrests over the past few weeks.”
A man trying to carry in a large teepee pole Thursday afternoon was turned back. Another pole that had been brought in earlier in the day was carried away by another protester after discussion with police. The standoff dissolved soon after.
The Progressive Conservative government has been faced with encampments since last summer. The first one, which is ongoing on the east lawn of the grounds, is in response to the discovery of unmarked graves at residential school sites.
In the winter, a group of truckers and their supporters parked on the street in front of the legislature for about four weeks before provincial conservation officers moved in and took away equipment.
The government passed a law in the spring that forbids encampments on the legislature grounds and bans people from supplying generators, firewood and other goods.
People who break the rules can be evicted from the grounds and face fines of up to $5,000.