Police eliminate protesters around the Parliament of Canada

Updated February 19, 2022 at 10:21 p.m. ET

Ottawa police continued their efforts on Saturday to clear protesters from the streets of the Canadian capital after three weeks of demonstrations against the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

By evening, it appeared that the heart of the protests, the street outside the country’s parliament buildings, was clear, according to at the CBC.

After having done more than 100 arrests on FridayOttawa Police Acting Chief Steve Bell said 47 more arrests were made on Saturday and the total stands at 170. The police department also said 53 vehicles had been towed and 22 license plates seized.

“Today we made very significant progress in safely removing this illegal protest from our streets,” Bell said on Saturday. “At every stage of this operation, we have been frank and clear with the illegal protesters that they must leave the area. We have informed them of our enforcement efforts so that they can continue to make informed decisions. We supported these warnings. with a deliberate and methodical operation using legal and safe tactics.”

Bell said some protesters were leaving the area of ​​Parliament and moving into surrounding neighborhoods, but he promised they would be removed from there as well.

Protesters were told to leave before police intervened

The clearing began on Friday after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the country’s emergency law earlier in the week. This gave the government the power to “restore order” to the streets that the protest movement known as the Freedom Convoy was blocking.

Ahead of Saturday’s second surge, the Ottawa Police Service encouraged the remaining people to leave and said officers would be wearing helmets and batons because of the resistance they saw on Friday.

“We told you to leave. We gave you time to leave. We were slow and methodical, but you were aggressive and aggressive with the officers and the horses,” Ottawa police said. said on Twitter Saturday morning. “Based on your behavior, we are responding by including helmets and batons for our safety.”

Bell acknowledged that in addition to the escalation in what officers were wearing, there was at least one instance where pepper spray was used against protesters who Bell said were resisting officers.

Questions raised about possible excessive force

The level of force used by officers has come under scrutiny after videos surfaced on social media allegedly showing what many considered excessive force.

In a statement, Freedom Convoy organizers called the actions “brutal” by the officers.

“We have therefore asked our truckers to leave Parliament Hill to avoid further brutality,” the statement said. “Moving the trucks will take time. This has been communicated to Ottawa Police and we hope they will exercise judicious restraint.”

Bell said he had not seen the videos in question and any allegations made would be investigated.

“We will be absolutely involved in reviewing arrests to ensure that legal force was used in carrying out our mission,” he said.

The glade isn’t over yet

Police continued to urge protesters to leave the area peacefully, but Bell acknowledged that police footage taken during the clearing of protesters will be used in the further investigation to identify the individuals.

“If you are involved in this protest, we will actively seek to identify you and send you financial penalties and criminal charges. Absolutely,” Bell said. “This investigation will last for months to come.”

The protests, which began with opposition to a vaccination mandate for truckers entering Canada, have spread and morphed into a broader anti-COVID restrictions movement.

The protesters too blocked the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit for a week until it was cleared on February 13, disrupting millions of dollars of trade. Another group blocked the border between Emerson, Manitoba, and Pembina, ND until protesters left without arrest on Wednesday. And on Saturday, Canadian police said Access to the Pacific Highway border crossing, which connects Surrey, British Columbia, to Blaine, Washington, has been closed due to protests.

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