Police don riot gear as Furey’s Liberals make 2nd attempt at budget amid protests

21 March 2024
Police don riot gear as Furey’s Liberals make 2nd attempt at budget amid protests


It was deja vu at Confederation Building in St. John’s on Thursday morning, as police and protesters have shown up in large numbers ahead of the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s plans to introduce the 2024 budget.

As the first civil servants began to arrive, reporters at the scene watched as protesters blocked their entrance — in direct violation of a court-ordered injunction the day before.

Dozens of police officers in riot gear are guarding the doors of the building, but the protesters have moved in directly in front of them. There had not been any violent clashes as of 8:50 a.m. NT.

The province announced it is moving ahead with the budget, telling members of the media to be inside the building by 9:30 a.m.

Earlier in the morning, police were seen having a cordial conversation with protest leaders, urging them to avoid a repeat of Wednesday’s raucous events — particularly with a court-ordered injunction now in place that prohibits protesters from blocking safe access to Confederation Building, which is both home to the legislature and the main government complex.

John Efford Jr. spoke to a crowd of protesters on Thursday morning, telling them to not incite others. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Protest leader John Efford Jr. addressed the crowd a few minutes later.

“We’re just going to make our presence known to the people that are going to work this morning. But we are going to be peaceful,” he said over a megaphone. “Do not, do not get caught up in cat-calling. Do not get caught up in incitement. If anybody says anything to you today, say have a nice day.”

The group of mostly fish harvesters have been protesting since early March on a number of conditions. For one, they want to be allowed to sell their catch to buyers outside the province. As it stands, they can only sell to buyers within the province at a price negotiated by the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union and the Association of Seafood Producers.

They also want processing limits lifted on independent fish plants to allow them to compete with the few companies that largely control processing in the province.

“Basically our message is free enterprise,” Efford Jr. told CBC Radio’s The Current on Thursday morning, adding the current system is “against what Canada believes in.”

John Efford Jr. spoke early Thursday morning to hundreds of fish harvesters who returned for Day 2 of protests, stressing the group would not act like an angry mob in front of Confederation Building in St. John’s. Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers lined the entrance in riot gear. An injunction prevents protesters from intimidating or harassing people entering the government complex.

While the provincial government has committed to acting on both of these demands for the crab fishery — a lucrative but time-limited season that opens in the spring — the protesters say they want these concessions for all species.

Efford said they feel the discussions have put all options on the table, but with crab season fast approaching, he wants to see concrete solutions.

“All they’re giving us is a general [message] that they will look at it,” Efford Jr. said. “But we need specifics. This won’t work without specific detail as to what they are going to do.”

The Association of Seafood Producers has been mostly quiet throughout the protests, and cancelled a news conference planned for Thursday morning with an hour’s notice. No reason was given, but the group said it would provide a news release later in the day.

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The police are now tasked with enforcing an injunction that a Supreme Court of Newfoundland justice handed down during Wednesday’s chaos and commotion.

RNC pursuing charges after police horses struck during protest

The injunction prevents anyone from blocking access to the building, or interfering with public servants.

Things got ugly on Wednesday morning when government workers tried to enter the building and were turned back by a throng of protesters. They clashed with police officers and horses, with one protester and one officer being sent to hospital to be treated for injuries. The RNC said it will be pursuing charges against protesters who struck police horses during the melee.

Will a budget be introduced?

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey was adamant on Wednesday that a budget would be introduced, it’s just a matter of when.

Furey said he was disappointed by the actions of “some” protesters, but said his government won’t be stopped from proceeding with important business for the citizens of the province.

Police and fish harvesters got physical around 8:30 a.m. NT on Wednesday, as protesters moved toward an entrance to Confederation Building in St. John’s.

“There will be a budget for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, full stop. That is the intent,” he said. “When it is safe to do so, people can enter the building, and we will do it.”

By 8:30 a.m., protesters had moved closer to the doors of Confederation Building and closer to the line of police officers in riot gear. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Police donned riot gear on Thursday morning, a step up from their response the previous day. About two dozen officers were guarding the rear entrance of the building as of 6:30 a.m., which is most commonly used by government officials to access their offices.

CBC News will be following the story throughout the day, and will provide regular updates.

Source: cbc

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