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Protesters block street in front of B.C. legislature demanding end to COVID-19 restrictions

Anti-mandate protesters returned to the B.C. legislature in Victoria on Saturday for the fourth straight weekend, blocking traffic on Belleville Street in solidarity with the self-described "Freedom Convoy" that has occupied downtown Ottawa for weeks.

Images from the scene show hundreds of protesters in the street and on the lawn of the legislature building.

Several large trucks were also parked on Belleville Street, one of them holding a crane from which a Canadian flag was flown.

Numerous other flags could be seen among the crowd, along with signs demanding freedom and directing profanity at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

As they have for each of the last three weeks, Victoria police set up temporary surveillance cameras around the legislature ahead of Saturday's protests.

The Victoria Police Department said in a statement Friday that it sees its role during protests as ensuring public safety and protecting the right to protest peacefully and lawfully.

"Dangerous and/or unlawful acts will be met with de-escalation and enforcement," VicPD said in its statement.

"This enforcement may include the issuing of violation tickets under the Motor Vehicle Act."

The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board, which oversees VicPD, also issued a statement on Friday. The board echoed the department's commitment to supporting people's rights to peacefully protest.

The board also condemned "racist, hateful and discriminatory actions."

"The police board does not condone the use of racist symbols, hate speech, or violent actions," it said in its statement.

"It is illegal to advocate genocide, publicly incite hatred, or willfully promote hatred based on national or ethnic origin, race, religion, skin colour and sexual orientation."

The police board did not say that Freedom Convoy protesters in Victoria had specifically engaged in such actions, but Mayor Lisa Helps said after the first convoy protest in Victoria that she received complaints from residents and businesses about people in the crowd using racist and anti-Semitic language. 

The convoy movement more broadly has seen allegations of violence, harassment, racism and white supremacy among some of its participants

The protesters in Victoria Saturday joined groups in Ottawa and around the country in calling for the end of all COVID-19-related restrictions.

Saturday's protests came as police in Ottawa continued to crack down on the blockades there, arresting dozens and towing dozens of vehicles out of the downtown core. Top Stories

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