OTTAWA – Canadian police on Sunday secured the downtown core of the capital with fencing as city workers cleaned up trash and snow plows cleared streets after two days of tense standoffs and 191 arrests ended a three-week occupation of Ottawa.
Demonstrators had used hundreds of trucks and vehicles to block the city center since January 28, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke rarely used emergency powers. Seventy-six vehicles had been towed, police said.
Stragglers on Sunday packed up a logistics depot the so-called “Freedom Convoy” had set up in a parking lot near the highway to supply the protesters camped several kilometers away in front of parliament, as police handed out flyers warning them to leave soon or risk arrest and a fine.
“We were running support for the convoy and the people in the downtown core – food, fuel, basic necessities,” said Winton Marchant, a retired firefighter from Windsor, Ontario. “This was the base camp and we are cleaning up.”
The protesters initially wanted an end to cross-border COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers, but the blockade turned into a demonstration against Trudeau and the government.
On Saturday, police used pepper spray and stun grenades on the die-hard protesters who remained, clearing most of the area in front of parliament. Other demonstrators abandoned their positions in other parts of the downtown area during the night.
Those arrested so far face 389 different criminal charges, including obstructing police, disobeying a court order, assault, mischief, possessing a weapon and assaulting a police officer, Ottawa’s Interim Police Chief Steve Bell told reporters.
“We’re not done with this operation yet,” Bell said. Over the “next several days” police will determine “how we maintain a presence and make sure that nobody returns to occupy our streets again,” Bell said.
For the first time in weeks, there was only snow and silence downtown. The trucks blaring their horns were gone. One resident said he felt relief.
Protesters who were filmed by police and have since left the city will be held to account, Bell said on Saturday. (Reuters)