Ottawa, Canada – Dozens of people have been arrested and several vehicles have been towed in downtown Ottawa, police said, as a large-scale operation to clear a weeks-long occupation of the Canadian capital was underway.
Interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell told reporters on Friday afternoon that 70 people had been arrested as of 3pm local time (20:00 GMT) and that the force would work “day and night” until the protest is dismantled.
Police increased their presence in the downtown core during the past several days, as they coordinated with law enforcement agencies at the provincial and federal levels to clear out participants in the so-called “Freedom Convoy“.
A large group of Canadian truckers and their supporters converged on Ottawa on January 28 to demand an end to coronavirus restrictions in Canada. Trucks blocked the streets around Parliament Hill in what residents and local leaders have denounced as a “siege” and “occupation“.
Moving slowly, several hundred police officers pushed a crowd of protesters off the streets earlier on Friday. The windows of several vehicles were broken in order to remove their occupants.
The demonstrators chanted “freedom” and occasionally broke into a singing of the national anthem, “O Canada”, as many remained defiant despite the heavy police presence and multiple warnings to leave the area.
“We’re here for freedom,” said Richard, a convoy participant who only gave Al Jazeera his first name. “We’re not fighting nobody.” Another trucker, who identified himself only as Roger, added: “The whole world is watching today … I want my rights and freedoms back.”