Canadian police arresting protesters, towing rigs in Ottawa – ABC News
OTTAWA, Ontario — Going nose-to-nose with protesters, police began arresting people and towing away vehicles Friday in a bid to break the three-week siege of Canada’s capital by hundreds of truckers angry over the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Trucks began leaving Parliament Hill in the afternoon as lines of officers pushed through the streets.
Hundreds of police, some in riot gear and some carrying automatic weapons, descended into the protest zone in the morning and led demonstrators away in handcuffs through Ottawa’s newly snow-covered streets as holdouts blared their horns in defiance. Police smashed through the door of at least one RV camper before hauling it away.
Tow truck operators — wearing neon-green ski masks, with their companies’ decals taped over on their trucks to conceal their identities — arrived under police escort and got to work removing the big rigs, campers and other vehicles parked bumper to bumper and shoulder to shoulder near Parliament.
Scuffles broke out in places, and police repeatedly pushed the crowd back amid cries of “Freedom!” and the singing of the national anthem, “O Canada.”
Hours into the show of force, authorities gave no estimate of the number of arrests or any injuries in one of the biggest police enforcement actions in Canada’s history, with officers drawn from around the country.
Some protesters surrendered and several trucks pulled out as the crackdown on the self-styled Freedom Convoy unfolded. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said around midday: “There are indications we are now starting to see progress.”
But many other protesters stood their ground.
“Freedom was never free,” said trucker Kevin Homaund, of Montreal. “So what if they put the handcuffs on us and they put us in jail?”
The capital and its paralyzed streets represented the movement’s last stronghold after three weeks of demonstrations and blockades that shut down border crossings into the U.S., caused economic damage to both countries and created a political crisis for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They also shook Canada’s reputation for civility, with some foes of the unrest blaming the influence of the United States.
Over the past weeks, authorities had hesitated to move against many of the protesters, in part for fear of violence. The demonstrations have drawn right-wing extremists and veterans, some of them armed.
With police and the government facing accusations that they let the protests gain strength and spread, Trudeau on Monday invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act, giving law enforcement extraordinary authority to declare the blockades illegal, tow away trucks, arrest the drivers, suspend their licenses and freeze their bank accounts.
Ottawa police made their first move to end the occupation late Thursday with the arrest of two key protest leaders. They also sealed off much of the downtown area to outsiders to prevent them from coming to the aid of the protesters.
The emergency act also enabled law enforcement authorities to compel tow truck companies to assist. Ottawa police said earlier that they couldn’t find tow truck drivers willing to help because they either sympathized with the movement or feared retaliation.
As police worked to dismantle the siege, Pat King, a protest leader who has made white supremacist comments in the past, told truckers, “Please stay peaceful,” while also threatening the livelihoods of the tow truck operators.
“You are committing career suicide,” King warned on Facebook. “We know where the trucks came from.”
King himself was later arrested by …….