OTTAWA, Ontario — Police began arresting protesters on Friday in a bid to break the three-week siege of Canada’s capital by truckers angry over the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Some protesters surrendered and were taken into custody, police said. Some were seen taken away in handcuffs.
Police made their first move to end the occupation that is disrupting traffic on Thursday night with the arrest of two protest leaders. They also closed off much of downtown to outsiders to prevent them from coming to the aid of so-called Freedom Convoy protesters.
The capital represented the movement’s last stronghold after three weeks of protests and blockades that closed border crossings to the United States, caused economic damage to both countries and created a political crisis for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In recent weeks, authorities have been reluctant to intervene against many protesters across the country, in part for fear of violence. The protests have drawn right-wing extremists and veterans, some of them armed.
With police and government blamed for allowing protests to grow and spread, Trudeau on Monday invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act, empowering law enforcement authorities to declare the blockades, towing trucks, arresting drivers, suspending their licenses and freezing their bank. accounts.
Ottawa police made it clear on Thursday that they were preparing to end the protest and remove the more than 300 trucks, with the acting Ottawa police chief warning: ‘Action is imminent’ .
Demonstrations across the country by demonstrators in trucks, tractors and motorhomes initially focused on Canada’s demand for vaccines for truckers entering the country, but quickly turned into a broad attack on COVID-19 precautions and the Trudeau government.
The largest border blockade at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit has disrupted the flow of auto parts between the two countries and forced the industry to cut production. Authorities lifted the siege last weekend after arresting dozens of protesters.
The latest blockade, in Manitoba, ended peacefully on Wednesday.
The protests drew support from right-wing extremists and received cheers and donations from conservatives in the United States.
The bumper-to-bumper occupation has infuriated many Ottawa residents, who have complained of being harassed and intimidated on the streets.
Gillies reported from Toronto.
startribune Gt Itly