Hundreds of Ottawa police officers in riot gear cleared out protesters Saturday who had occupied the area in front of Parliament for three weeks.

Canadian police face off with demonstrators participating in a protest organized by truck drivers … [+] opposing the country’s vaccine rules on February 19, 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Key Facts

“This demonstration is over,” Interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell said in a press briefing Saturday afternoon, adding that police have told protesters to leave and that they would “escalate and forcibly remove” holdouts.

Ottawa police said they had made 170 arrests since Friday and towed away 53 of the vehicles that protesters of the government’s anti-Covid measures had used to block downtown streets, as well as issued 3,600 tickets.

Among those arrested were three leaders of the protests: Pat King, Chris Barber and Tamara Lich. 

News agency the Canadian Press reported protesters shouted “shame” and “freedom” as they pushed back at police officers who pushed the crowd back wielding batons.

Police used pepper spray on the crowd, while CBC showed protesters pouring water and rubbing snow on their eyes to clear their vision.

Ottawa police tweeted Saturday morning they had arrested a protester who allegedly launched a gas canister and said they had arrested others who were in body armor and had “smoke grenades on them and miscellaneous fireworks in their bags.” 

Surprising Fact

Police said protesters were using their children as shields, warning that anyone who brings minors under 18 years old to the protest site could face fines up to 5,000 Canadian dollars ($3,925) and up to five years behind bars.

Key Background

In late January, the “Freedom Convoy” moved into downtown Ottawa to protest Covid-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers. They blared horns, clogged up streets and forced some local businesses to temporarily close, drawing the disapproval of the majority of Canadians, according to polls. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said in a virtual press conference Saturday “at least 76” accounts with more than 3 million Canadian dollars raised to support the protests have been frozen since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers Monday. The demonstration against Covid-19 rules in downtown Ottawa inspired blockades at three vital border crossings between U.S. and Canada that police broke up over the past week.

Further Reading

Ottawa Protesters Cleared From Parliament Encampment (New York Times)

‘Freedom Convoy’: Ottawa Police Arrest 15 Protesters And Tow Away Vehicles As Standoff Continues (Forbes)