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Canadian police fend off COVID protesters in bid to end siege

Police in tactical gear quickly gained ground on Saturday in the second full day of one of the largest police actions in Canadian history, with officers from across the country. Overnight, authorities towed trucks from areas where they had taken control of downtown Ottawa.

Authorities marched past Parliament Hill, which has been occupied by trucks and protesters since late last month.

Ottawa police addressed the protesters in a tweet: “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. Depending on your behavior, we respond by including helmets and batons for our safety,”

Police said a protester threw a gas canister and was arrested as he advanced. Police said “protesters continue to throw gas at police.”

As of Friday night, at least 100 people had been arrested, mostly on misdemeanor charges, and nearly two dozen vehicles had been towed away, including all those blocking one of the city’s main streets, authorities said. One officer was lightly injured, but no protesters were injured, Ottawa Police Acting Chief Steve Bell said.

Among those arrested were four protest leaders. One was released on bail while the others remained in jail.

The crackdown on the so-called Freedom Convoy began on Friday morning, when hundreds of police, some in riot gear and others carrying automatic weapons, descended on the protest area and began leading the handcuffed protesters down snowy streets as reluctant truckers honked their horns. .

The capital and its crippled streets represented the movement’s last bastion after weeks of protests and blockades that closed border crossings into the United States and created one of the most serious tests yet for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. . They also undermined Canada’s reputation for civility, with some blaming American influence.

The Freedom Convoy protests 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.

Ottawa residents have complained of being harassed and intimidated by truckers and have won a court injunction to stop their incessant honking.

Trudeau portrayed the protesters as members of a “marginal” element. Canadians have largely embraced the country’s COVID-19 restrictions, with the vast majority being vaccinated, including about 90% of the country’s truckers. Some of the vaccine and mask mandates imposed by the provinces are already falling rapidly.

The largest border blockade, at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, 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 last border blockade, in Manitoba, opposite North Dakota, ended peacefully on Wednesday.

The protests were cheered and received donations from conservatives in the United States

Gillies reported from Toronto.

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