Protesters in Ottawa are on alert after the police order them to disperse.

Protesters in Ottawa are on alert after the police order them to disperse.

On Rideau Street in downtown Ottawa, after the police handed out leaflets warning protesters to leave or face arrest, a group of them chatted with officers, asking if they planned to follow through.

When the officers said they had no intention to arrest them, one protester read aloud from the leaflet, which said the demonstrators were in violation of the law.

“So are you going to arrest us?” he asked. “It says you should arrest us. If you’re given the order, will you follow orders?”

With the Ottawa police issuing a new demand that protesters withdraw immediately, just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared a national emergency, several of the demonstrators are coordinating their responses to the small knots of officers who periodically show up in their encampment. Via a text message chain, they share locations where the police are spotted and then hurry over to confront them.

The meetings are more earnest than aggressive, as protesters try to explain their views and question the officers about law enforcement plans.

The trucks have cleared off some residential streets, especially over the past few days, though not others. The phalanx of portable toilets on Metcalfe Street have been removed, and are now mostly on Wellington Street, in accordance with an agreement the protesters struck with the mayor.

Dennis Brown, 57, walked around with his own piece of paper, calling for the arrest not of the protesters but of the politicians. He said he quit his job as a tech service provider for the Inuit, because he didn’t want to comply with requirements that travelers be vaccinated.

Andrew Broe, 52, a trucker from Trenton, Ontario, received the police warning and promptly threw it into the fire he was tending in a canister to keep warm on the street outside the Parliament building.

“It is a piece of encouragement,” he said of the leaflet. “They are drawing at straws trying to remove a peaceful protest.” As taxpayers, the protesters own the road, he said, but if the police move in, he will not resist.

As he spoke, he received a message from the organization’s leadership on a text chain reserved for truckers. It urged calm, unity and resilience to deliver “the message that we need the world to hear.”

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