Police say 12 people were charged after officers broke up a demonstration in a downtown Ottawa intersection early Saturday.
A day of action for Anishinabeg and Black lives stretched into its third day as demonstrators camped for a second night in the normally busy intersection of Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street.
Protesters were set up with tents and signs as drivers were advised to avoid the area.
In a news release issued Saturday morning, police said officers removed the demonstrators at 3:30 a.m. and laid multiple charges against 12 people.
“The demonstration disrupted regular traffic and blocked an important route for emergency responders. This caused multiple safety issues,” police said.
“Police offered demonstrators multiple locations to relocate the demonstration.”
The intersection is now open, the release said.
A statement from the groups leading the protest said numerous city councillors and the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB), a civilian body that oversees the local force, had agreed on Friday night to meet with organizers to discuss their demands Saturday morning.
They said the board’s agreement to meet, followed by police action to remove the camp in the middle of the night, represents “clear bad faith.”
OPSB chair Diane Deans put out a statement on Saturday saying the board had no involvement in the operational decision to remove the camp.
Organizers moved their demonstration to Elgin Street in front of the Ottawa police station on Saturday to petition for the release of 12 protesters who were arrested.
Police said those arrested were eventually released with charges of mischief, which the groups are calling to be dismissed. One youth was also released with a warning.
Among the protesters’ demands are a freeze on the Ottawa Police Services budget, an end to police use of the controversial dynamic entry tactic and the removal of officers from contested Indigenous land.
The event began Thursday afternoon.
Video from the early hours of the protest showed an SUV pushing through the crowd of demonstrators.
An OPS spokesperson said police are investigating the incident.
The spokesperson added at the time that officers would “remain on scene to ensure the safety of all those involved and to maintain the road closures.”
The groups’ demands, according to a statement from the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, span areas including policing, housing, health and education.
In addition to changes in policing, the demands include a ban on racial slurs in the classroom, an end to evictions and rent hikes during the COVID-19 pandemic and action to address systemic racism in health care.
The groups also ask for Ottawa Public Health to craft a strategy to address the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on Black and Indigenous communities.