(Bloomberg) — Tensions boiled over at protests against vaccine mandates in two Canadian cities Saturday as a smoke bomb was deployed in Toronto and four men were injured in a hit-and-run incident in Winnipeg.
Toronto police arrested a 22-year-old man on the North side of Queen’s Park after he set off a smoke bomb, officials said in a Twitter post. In Winnipeg, police arrested a 42-year-old man who drove through a group of protesters downtown. Three men suffered minor injuries and a fourth was treated in a hospital and released.
The incidents come as protests against vaccine mandates and Covid restrictions expanded across Canada this weekend, snarling traffic in places from Vancouver to Quebec City. Hundreds of truckers and other protesters have been occupying the nation’s capital for a week in opposition to vaccine mandates, and pent -up frustration has resulted in ballooning support in cities across the country.
“This is an extremely polarizing situation,” said Winnipeg Police Constable Rob Carver. “There are very divergent views, not just here but across the country.”
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The protests started in reaction to Canadian and US laws that went into effect in January, requiring truckers crossing the border to be fully vaccinated. They have since morphed into a rally against Covid restrictions more broadly, and Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” has since been championed by the likes of Fox News and by podcaster Joe Rogan, Tesla billionaire Elon Musk and former President Donald Trump. US demonstrators are planning to continue the Canadian protests with a convoy to Washington, DC
Hundreds of big rigs descended in Ottawa last weekend, and demonstrators in the capital and elsewhere say they plan to stay put until Canada lifts vaccine mandates.
The Winnipeg hit-and-run “was not specifically about the mandates” and the individual who drove into the crowd “wasn’t really for or against either of the general views that are floating around this country,” Carver said Saturday in a conference call with reporters. Police are in contact with protest organizers and don’t plan to bolster police presence as demonstrators have been cooperative, he said.
Counter protesters attempted to impede the movement of vehicle convoys Saturday by blocking intersections, Vancouver police said in a Twitter post. Hundreds of vehicles from the protest convoy entered the downtown core, causing significant congestion. On Friday, Mayor Kennedy Stewart said in a statement “ Vancouver doesn’t want you here. Make your point and then go home.”
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