Ottawa protest: Police begin to make arrests

Ottawa – Police have clashed with protesters in Canada’s capital as they move to end an anti-vaccine mandate demonstration.

The operation started early on Friday morning in downtown Ottawa with 21 arrests made.

Police have now accused protesters of using children as a shield between lines of officers and the protest site.

The police action comes after the government invoked the Emergencies Act to crack down on the three-week protest.

A group of protesters have remained in the city in defiance of orders to leave.

“Freedom was never free,” protester Kevin Homaund told the Associated Press. “So what if they put the handcuffs on us and they put us in jail?”

Footage from the scene showed hundreds of police officers advancing into the heart of the protest zone, next to Parliament Hill.

Some of the remaining protesters formed a line in front of approaching officers, linking arms and singing O Canada – the country’s national anthem.

Ottawa police have set up almost 100 police check-points around the main protest site as well as a large business and residential district in the city centre to prevent more protesters from entering the area.

“DEMONSTRATORS: You must leave,” Ottawa police wrote on Twitter. “Anyone within the unlawful protest site may be arrested.”

Police have said they had also towed 21 vehicles by Friday afternoon.

Authorities also reported a “concerted effort” to flood the city’s 911 and non-emergency phone lines. Ottawa police described similar tactics last week, saying a gush of US-based phone calls to local emergency numbers nearly crashed the city’s crisis response system.

Later on Friday, two leaders of the trucker convoy were scheduled to appear in court. Tamara Lich and Chris Barber were both charged with mischief. Barber also faces an obstruction charge.

What began in late January as a truck convoy headed to Ottawa to oppose a vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the US-Canada border grew into a broader opposition to pandemic restrictions and Trudeau’s government, with supporting protests across the country.

Canada’s House of Commons and Senate cancelled Friday sittings because of police action surrounding the parliament buildings.

Parliamentarians were scheduled to debate the decision by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke the never-before-used emergencies law.

The law grants government added powers in times of crisis and has been used to impose bans on public assembly in some areas of Ottawa and has prohibited travel to the protest zone, and bringing minors to the area, among other measures.

Many Ottawa residents have expressed frustration at local police, saying not enough was done to clear the protest, which has paralysed parts of the city around parliament and affected local businesses. The police chief resigned earlier this week over his handling of the demonstration.

Authorities last weekend cleared the most economically damaging blockade – of a bridge linking Windsor, Ontario, with the US state of Michigan. Trucker protests at other border crossings in Coutts, Alberta, and Emerson, Manitoba, ended this week.


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