OTTAWA: Police, many riding on horses, pushed through crowds of protesters to remove them from the downtown of Ottawa on Friday.
They detained more than 100 people and took away cars that had been in the city’s central area for three weeks in protest against restrictions on pandemics.
Afraid of violence or increased tension, Ottawa police sought to disperse protesters by imposing penalties and threats of arrest.
Instead, however, on Friday, police swarmed into the cold temperatures and snow that had just fallen and slowly cleared a portion within the city.
There were moments of tension throughout the day, as protesters were taken away from their cars, and those who opposed the police’s advance were thrown on the ground and were tied with zip-ties between their backs.
The protesters engaged in “assaultive behavior,” forcing mounted police to come in “to create critical space” late in the afternoon, as per an official statement from the police.
While this was happening, an individual was seen throwing a bicycle at the horse and was later arrested for causing harm to a police service animal, according to police.
Authorities say it could take several days to remove the protesters and tractor-trailer vehicles who have occupied Ottawa streets since January. 28.
“We will run this operation 24 hours a day until the residents and community have their entire city back,” Steve Bell, Ottawa’s interim police chief, told reporters.
At least one armored military-style vehicle was seen on the streets. There are at least eight officers wearing helmets riding on horses. Police were carrying guns and others with what appeared to be tear gas launchers.
The tear gas didn’t get employed on Friday. Instead, according to CTV Canadian broadcaster CTV, the protesters were being pepper-sprayed and trampled by mounted police throughout the daytime.
The protest started as a group of truckers calling for the end of a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for any truckers crossing the border who are re-entering Canada after leaving their home country of the United States. The protests gradually morphed into a larger-scale opposition to the administration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Ottawa police launched their crackdown by installing 100 checkpoints along with the roadblocks in the protest zone, which was designed to cut off the supply of fuel, food, or demonstrators to the area.
In the late hours of Friday, police announced that they had detained around 100 persons and towed out 21 automobiles. CTV said truckers had been seen leaving the area on their initiative on Friday. However, several trucks were still in the area until late afternoon.
Along with the protesters being taken in custody by police, the officers also said they had detained three of the most prominent organizers on Thursday, two and one on Friday.
In response to his leaders’ detention, Freedom Convoy 2022, an umbrella group that represents protesters, said: “We will continue to hold the line. We refuse to bow to abuses of power. The world is watching, Canada.”
‘SHOW SOME SUPPORT’
People embrace before police while truckers and their supporters continue to protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandates in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on February 18, 2022.
Carlos OsorioAfter an evening of heavy snow, protesters armed with shovels on Friday built an impressive snowbank at the chest height at Wellington Street outside parliament.
They placed themselves in front of it while they carried Canadian flags and “Freedom Convoy” posters.
Police were directing the protesters towards the Parliament building, clearing the area in the process; however, they were yet to open the site close to the House of Commons and below the prime minister’s office by later in the day.
According to a source from the government, it was expected that police would go into the night.
“If they want to arrest me, I’ll put my hands out, and they can twist-tie me up like everybody else here. So we’re going peaceful,” said Mark, the protester of Nova Scotia who would not reveal his last name.
The protest has been peaceful; however, protesters who shouted on Friday engaged in a scuffle with police, and a few brief fights broke out.
A video posted on Canadian Media showed footage of a small girl standing in the middle of a crowd of protesters fighting hundreds of police officers.
“Protesters have put children between police operations and the unlawful protest site,” Ottawa Police tweeted. “The children will be brought to a place of safety.”
A teenage girl at the rally and her father and twin siblings aged 12 and 12 said she was there to “show some support” for the truckers.
“Thank all you guys for fighting for mine and my brother and sister’s freedom,” said Emily McAuley, who is from a town that is 30 hours from Ottawa via automobile.
Trudeau on Monday used emergency powers to grant his government more power to end the protests. Legislators were set to discuss the emergency powers for a few days on Friday. However, they could not do so because the House of Commons suspended its session over police activity.
“If you are not in the House of Commons precinct, stay away from the downtown core until further notice,” the House of Commons notice said.
Trudeau was seeking the powers of the special court after protesters had shut the U.S. border crossings, including Ontario’s Ambassador Bridge to Detroit, which is a major chokepoint for automakers in the region.
The bridge’s suspension was lifted on Sunday, harmed both economies of the two countries, and created a problem for Trudeau.
As the police intensified their efforts to remove the remaining stronghold of protesters, at least twelve tow trucks worked to draw trucks and other vehicles of protest downtown.
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister, told reporters that protesters should not be allowed to subvert the government’s authority.
“These illegal blockades and occupations will end, and they will end for good,” Freeland declared.