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Canada truckers' protests: Police close in on protesters blockading Ottawa, arrest over 100

The protesters initially wanted an end to cross-border COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers, but the blockade has gradually turned into an anti-government and anti-Justin Trudeau demonstration.

Canada truckers' protests: Police close in on protesters blockading Ottawa, arrest over 100

OTTAWA: Police, including some on horseback, pushed into crowds of demonstrators to clear them from the streets of downtown Ottawa on Friday, arresting more than 100 and hauling away vehicles that have been blocking the core of the capital for more than three weeks in a protest against pandemic restrictions.

Fearing escalation or violence, Ottawa police had sought to disperse them with fines and threats of possible arrest, but on Friday hundreds of them moved in despite the frigid temperature and freshly fallen snow, slowly clearing one part of the city.

There were tense moments during the day as some protesters were dragged from their vehicles, and others who resisted the police advance were thrown to the ground and had their hands zip-tied behind their backs.

The protesters showed "assaultive behaviour," forcing mounted police to move in "to create critical space" in the late afternoon, according to a police statement. As this happened, one person threw a bicycle at a horse and was arrested for harming a police service animal.

Dozens of trucks still occupy the downtown area, though fewer now because several left when the arrests began. Police have also arrested the three most prominent organizers, two on Thursday and one on Friday.

"We will run this operation 24 hours a day until the residents and community have their entire city back," Steve Bell, Ottawa`s interim police chief, told reporters.

Officers set up 100 roadblocks near the protest site to deny people access and starve them of food and fuel. Police said they had towed 21 vehicles on Friday.

The protesters initially wanted an end to cross-border COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers, but the blockade has gradually turned into an anti-government and anti-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demonstration.

The protest has for weeks been non-violent, but on Friday protesters did shout and push against the police line, and there were brief scuffles. Video shared by Canadian media showed a young girl at the center of a tightly packed group of protesters facing off with dozens of officers.

Trudeau on Monday invoked emergency powers to give his government wider authority to stop the protests. Legislators had been due to debate those temporary powers on Friday but the House of Commons suspended its session, citing police activity.

"If you are not in the House of Commons precinct, stay away from the downtown core until further notice," a House of Commons notice said.

Trudeau sought the special powers after protesters shut down U.S. border crossings including Ontario`s Ambassador Bridge to Detroit, a chokepoint for the region`s automakers. The shutdown of the bridge, which was cleared on Sunday, had damaged both countries` economies and posed a major crisis for Trudeau.

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