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Police don riot gear as NL Liberals make second attempt at budget amid protests | News from Radio-Canada


It was déjà vu at the Confederation Building in St. John’s Thursday morning, as police and protesters showed up in large numbers ahead of the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s plan to present the 2024 budget.

Around 6 a.m., dozens of Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers – some in riot gear – stood guard outside the building’s main entrances and increasing numbers of fishermen arrived on the scene.

There were no outbreaks of violence during the first hours of the protest, leading the government to announce shortly after 8 a.m. that it was moving forward with the budget. Members of the media were asked 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 – especially with a court-ordered injunction barring Protesters block secure access to the Confederation Building, which both house the legislature and the main government complex.

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

“We’re just going to make our presence known to the people who are going to work this morning. But we’re going to be peaceful,” he said through a megaphone. “Don’t get caught up in name calling. Don’t get caught up in hate speech. If someone says something to you today, tell them to have a good day.”

A man with a megaphone standing on the stairs with police behind him.
John Efford Jr. addressed a crowd of protesters Thursday morning, telling them not to incite others. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

The group, made up mainly of fishermen, has been protesting since early March under a number of conditions. On the one hand, they want to be allowed to sell their catch to buyers outside the province.

They also want processing limits lifted at fish processing plants, so they can catch their quotas in fewer trips.

WATCH | See how protesting seafood fishermen clashed with police on Wednesday:

Police on foot and on horseback push back fishermen at Confederation Building

Police and fishermen showed up around 8:30 a.m. NT Wednesday as protesters headed toward the entrance to the Confederation Building in St. John’s.

While the provincial government has pledged to follow through on both demands for crab fishing – a lucrative but time-limited season that opens in the spring – protesters say they want these concessions for all species .

Police are now tasked with enforcing an injunction a Newfoundland Supreme Court judge issued during Wednesday’s chaos and unrest.

The injunction prevents anyone from blocking access to the building or interfering with officials.

Things went wrong Wednesday morning when officials tried to enter the building and were turned back by a crowd of protesters. They clashed with police and horses, with a protester and a police officer sent to hospital to be treated for their injuries. The RNC said it would file charges against protesters who hit police horses during the melee.

Will a budget be presented?

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey insisted Wednesday that a budget will be presented, it’s just a matter of time.

Furey said he was disappointed by the actions of “some” protesters, but said his government would not be stopped from carrying out business that is important to the province’s citizens.

WATCH | Prime Minister’s communications director rebuffed by fishermen protesting in front of Confederation Building:

Prime Minister’s communications director rebuffed by fishermen protesting in front of Confederation Building

Meghan McCabe, communications director for Newfoundland Premier Andrew Furey, attempted to enter the Confederation Building on Wednesday amid dozens of angry protesters. She was yelled at and a protester took her away in full view of the police.

“There will be a budget for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, period. That’s the intention,” he said. “When it’s safe, people will be able to come into the building, and we will.”

A line of police officers in riot gear standing in front of a building.
Police in riot gear guard the entrance to the Confederation Building Thursday morning in St. John’s as the provincial government makes a second attempt at presenting a budget. (Dan Arsenault/CBC)

Police donned riot gear Thursday morning, a step forward from their response the day before. Around 6:30 a.m., about two dozen police officers were guarding the building’s rear entrance, which is most commonly used by government officials to access their offices.

CBC News will follow the news throughout the day and provide regular updates.

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