Canadian Covid-19 protesters and police officers face off in freezing conditions in Ottawa
By Aya Elamroussi, CNN
Protesters in downtown Ottawa persisted in holding out late Friday, where protests were taking place become physical and police say more than 100 people have been arrested.
Tensions between Canadian authorities and protesters have simmered in recent weeks as crowds and idle trucks filled the capital and the elimination of Covid-19 preventive measures including compulsory masks and vaccinations.
The standstill reached a crescendo on Friday when That’s what the Ottawa police said Demonstrators attacked officers and tried to take down their weapons. One person was arrested after throwing a bicycle at a police horse, police said, and by the end of the day more than 100 were arrested and 21 vehicles were towed away.
“You must leave. You must cease any further illegal activity and immediately remove your vehicle and/or property from any illegal protest site. Anyone found within the illegal protest site is subject to arrest,” police said warned early Saturday.
Protesters have been blocking roads in Ottawa since January 29; Despite threats of legal action, many have shown no sign of retreating. In response, city, provincial and federal police officers began an unprecedented operation Friday morning to remove protesters along with their vehicles.
And while some people have voluntarily left the scene, dozens continued to clog the streets in and around Parliament on Friday as snow fell and bitter temperatures remained below freezing.
The situation prompted Canada’s House of Commons to cancel its session on Friday, House Speaker Anthony Rota said in a statement. The meeting was scheduled to discuss the Canadian government’s invocation of the Emergency Act on Monday over the protests, and officials say they hope Parliament will resume on Saturday.
The emergency law – that is is called for the first time in the country since it was enacted in 1988 – may enable military deployment, but need not necessarily result in it, and the Prime Minister said the government will not introduce it.
“The situation is constantly changing. The continued presence of vehicles and protesters associated with the convoy, as well as police operations, will impact the core of downtown,” Rota said in the statement.
The points of contention have also become more sensitive in recent days, with some protesters putting young children between them and the police. CNN has been monitoring these children at the protest site for the past few days.
Ottawa Police have said they are working around the clock to end the protests, which have been a major bone of contention in the nation’s capital.
“Despite all the planning, it still shocks and surprises me that children are put in danger in the middle of a demonstration where a police operation is unfolding,” said Steve Bell, Ottawa’s interim police chief, Friday afternoon.
DC braces for possible similar protests
A priority of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeal to the emergency law Officials say funding for protesters in Ottawa will be curtailed.
And Trudeau has pointed out that some people in the US and elsewhere are channeling funds to the protesters.
“We see that about half of the funds that go to the barricades here come from the United States. The aim of all measures, including the financial measures of the emergency law, is only to deal with the current threat and to get the situation under control completely.”
Meanwhile, officials in the US fear similar unrest could break out in Washington, DC as President Joe Biden prepares for his March 1 State of the Union address.
The U.S. Capitol Police have begun coordinating with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in anticipation of a potential trucker convoy descending Capitol Hill. Preparedness efforts include Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Park Police, the United States Secret Service and the DC National Guard.
Organizers are charged
Several people arrested earlier this week have been charged at protests, which have evolved in recent weeks from opposition to a vaccination mandate for truckers to disdain for all Covid-19 safety measures.
Patrick James King, 44, of Red Deer, Alberta, was arrested Friday, according to Ottawa police.
King is facing criminal charges of mischief, advising to commit the offense of mischief, advising to commit the offense of disobeying a court order and advising to commit the offense of obstructing police.
King will appear in court on Saturday.
He is the third organizer to be arrested by law enforcement in Ottawa.
On Friday, Ottawa police confirmed the arrests of organizers Tamara Lich, 49, and Christopher John Barber, 46.
Lich was charged with counseling mischief, and Barber was charged with counseling mischief, disobeying a court order, and obstructing police.
Barber had a contested bail hearing Friday, attorney Diane Magas said in an email to CNN. He was released on conditions and bail, she added. Lich is scheduled to appear in court for her indictment on Saturday morning.
This week, Blockades at border crossings in Alberta and Ontario culminated in arrests as police cleared the areas. Four people were charged with conspiracy to murder the Coutts, Alberta blockade, and several guns and ammunition were seized.
The CNN Wire
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CNN’s Paula Newton, Paradise Afshar, Travis Caldwell, Raja Razek, Chris Boyette, Amir Vera, and Jenn Selva contributed to this report.