- The “Freedom Convoy” protest has left Ottawa, Canada, in gridlock for three weeks.
- On Friday, police began a major operation to clear out the remaining protesters and vehicles.
- Police said more than 100 people were arrested and that some protesters had assaulted officers.
Police closed in on protesters in Ottawa, Canada, on Friday, three weeks after the trucker “Freedom Convoy” arrived in the nation’s capital and blockaded city streets in protest of COVID-19 measures.
Ottawa Police said more than 100 people had been arrested and 21 vehicles towed as of Friday night and that the demonstrations had turned violent.
“Protesters are assaulting officers, have attempted to remove officer’s weapons. All means of de-escalation have been used to move forward in our goal of returning Ottawa to it’s normalcy,” police said in a tweet.
They also tweeted multiple warnings to protesters on Friday to clear the area or risk being arrested.
Police said mounted officers were sent in as “protesters continued their assaultive behaviour with the police line, to prevent an escalation or further injury,” along with a photo of officers on horseback.
One person who threw a bicycle at a horse was arrested for intentionally harming a police service animal, police said.
—Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice) February 18, 2022
Video shared on Twitter showed police horses passing through a crowd, followed by people on the ground and others accusing the police of trampling the crowd. Ottawa Police addressed the incident and said they were unaware of any injuries.
“We hear your concern for people on the ground after the horses dispersed a crowd. Anyone who fell got up and walked away,” police said in a tweet.
Police also said no one had been seriously injured or killed as a result of police actions.
The operation to remove protesters and vehicles that have left Ottawa in gridlock for weeks and disrupted the lives of the capital’s residents came days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared a national emergency over the protests, giving the government power to temporarily restrict civil rights. A similar action had not been taken by the Canadian government in over 50 years.
The “Freedom Convoy” demonstrators began arriving in late January to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truckers who regularly cross the US-Canada border. The protest expanded to include different groups demonstrating against a variety of public-health measures.