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Protester arrested in Ottawa

A demonstrator is taken into custody in Ottawa, Canada on February 18, 2022 as the police break up a protest originally organized by opponents to vaccine mandates for truck drivers. The protest has grown into what authorities called an illegal occupation and went on for over three weeks. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Hundreds of Police Make Arrests in Ottawa to End Anti-Government Siege

"These illegal blockades and occupation cannot be allowed to usurp the authority of democratically elected governments," said the Canadian deputy prime minister.

Julia Conley

This is a developing story and may be updated.

Police in Ottawa, Canada were deployed Friday to arrest dozens of people opposed to public health measures and remove vehicles clogging city streets as part of an anti-government blockade which has led to supply chain shortages, threatened public safety, and disrupted daily life in the city for more than three weeks.

Ottawa Police reported at around 4:00 p.m. that they had arrested 70 people and towed 21 vehicles as they clashed with demonstrators and tried to retake key areas.

According to CBC, a convoy organizer named Pat King was among those arrested Friday.

"When this crisis is over, all of us will need to work hard to heal our country," Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told the press Friday. "But today, our economy and our democracy are facing a serious and foreign-funded threat. These illegal blockades and occupation cannot be allowed to usurp the authority of democratically elected governments."

CBC reported that police moved along Rideau Street in central Ottawa, where officers smashed the window of one vehicle and arrested its driver after he locked himself in.

"I implore anyone that's there: Get in your truck and we will navigate safe passage for you to leave our city streets," Steve Bell, interim police chief, told protesters at a news conference Thursday.

"When this crisis is over, all of us will need to work hard to heal our country. But today, our economy and our democracy are facing a serious and foreign-funded threat."

Authorities set up about 100 checkpoints around the center of Ottawa Thursday night and barred anyone except for residents from entering the area.

They also made several arrests, including organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, who have been linked to Islamophobic and far-right movements.

The arrests began days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the 1988 Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history, saying that the convoy is "harming our economy and endangering public safety."

The law allows the federal government to designate "protected places" in the nation's capital, ban public gatherings near critical infrastructure, and cut off funding to participants in the protests, which began as a demonstration against a vaccine mandate for truckers who travel between the U.S. and Canada.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, right-wing politicians and media personalities in the U.S. have cheered on the convoy and far-right groups have contributed to the demonstrators' coffers.

The Emergencies Act also prohibits attendees from bringing minor children to illegal assemblies.

The Ottawa Police accused protesters on Friday afternoon of placing children between the "unlawful protest site" and the hundreds of officers who were making arrests.

As officials in Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada have denounced the convoy as a "siege" and an illegal occupation, the police have sparked outrage among human rights groups and other critics for what some have viewed as unusual permissiveness since the protesters arrived in Ottawa in late January.

As Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act Monday, police arrested 13 people in Coutts, Alberta, where convoy participants had set up one of several blockades along the southern border. At least four people were charged with conspiracy to commit murder after authorities siezed more than a dozen guns, high capacity magazines, ammunition, body armor, and a machete.

According to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, some organizers of the blockade in Coutts had "strong ties to a far-right extreme organization with leaders who are in Ottawa."

Last week, protesters set up a blockade of the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, which carries 25% of trade between the U.S. and Canada. The action forced auto manufacturers to cancel workers' shifts and shut down plants in both countries. Police finally shut down the blockade Sunday.

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