Ottawa police arrest over 100 as tense convoy standoff continues

Click to play video: 'Trucker Protests: Over 100 arrested by Ottawa police in bid to end convoy blockade'
Trucker Protests: Over 100 arrested by Ottawa police in bid to end convoy blockade
Police are in the midst of an operation to clear out the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that has been encamped for 22 days in the nation’s capital, with more than 100 individuals arrested on Friday – Feb 18, 2022

Police are in the midst of an operation to clear out the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that has been encamped for 22 days in the nation’s capital, with at least 100 individuals arrested so far, some convoy organizers issuing calls for participants to retreat, and snow barricades being built up on the streets.

A tense standoff between protesters and heavily-armoured police – decked out in body armour and shields – continued Friday night outside Ottawa’s iconic Chateau Laurier hotel.

The line of police stretched from the hotel, across Wellington Street to the fenced-off former train station, which now houses the Senate.

Protestors cheered, chanted “freedom” and called on the cops to “go home” – exactly the demand that many Ottawa residents have directed at the convoy for more than three weeks now.

Story continues below advertisement

But police had made some progress in clearing out what they’ve determined is an unlawful protest. Bank Street, one of the main north-south corridors in Ottawa, was extremely quiet with cement barricades placed at most major intersections near Parliament Hill.

The core, committed heart of the protest remains, defiant of emergency powers and the very real threat of arrest. But police have set up around 100 checkpoints outside the downtown core to question anyone attempting to get downtown – Global News passed through two OPP blockades to reach the protest’s front line Friday evening.

The security perimeter starts at Bronson Avenue in the west and the Rideau Canal in the east, then from Highway 417 in the south to Parliament Hill as the northernmost point.

Story continues below advertisement

Only individuals with a “lawful” purpose for needing to be in the core will be permitted entry, police said.

The operation by law enforcement and tactical teams from multiple jurisdictions has been largely peaceful though police are equipped with tear gas and a range of other law enforcement tools in their bid to remove the encampment.

As of Friday evening, the police said they had removed 21 vehicles from the downtown core. They also said that officers have successfully moved protesters past the intersection of Mackenzie Avenue on Rideau Street, and Nicholas Street has been cleared.

Click to play video: 'Trucker protests: Ottawa police arrest 70 in push to end convoy blockade, says interim chief Steve Bell'
Trucker protests: Ottawa police arrest 70 in push to end convoy blockade, says interim chief Steve Bell

As police have upped their arrests of protesters, a number of key organizers of the demonstration have also been detained, including Pat King, Tamara Lich and Chris Barber.

King live-streamed his arrest on Friday, while Barber and Lich were arrested on Thursday.

Story continues below advertisement

Barber has been charged with both counselling to commit the offence of mischief as well as charges of obstruction and counselling to commit obstruction. During a virtual court appearance on Friday, the court was told that Barber is now facing a fourth charge for mischief.

He was released on bail under the conditions that he imminently leaves Ottawa and no longer supports the downtown blockades.

Lich is charged with counselling to commit the offence of mischief, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. She is expected to appear in court on Friday.

On Friday afternoon, convoy organizer B.J. Dichter tweeted that he has left the city and plans to “disconnect for a few days.”

“It’s time to leave,” he tweeted.

Click to play video: 'Slow and deliberate strategy drives police enforcement on Ottawa protesters'
Slow and deliberate strategy drives police enforcement on Ottawa protesters
Story continues below advertisement

While interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell said the operation plan is “moving ahead as expected” and that they are “in control of the situation on the ground,” a tweet by the force issued Friday evening said that “protesters are assaulting officers” and “have attempted to remove officer’s weapons.”

“All means of de-escalation have been used to move forward in our goal of returning Ottawa to it’s normalcy,” Ottawa police said.

Bell said there has been one minor injury so far to an officer, and declined to provide any update on the number of officers taking part in the operation to end the blockade.

He pointed to both the Emergencies Act as well as the provincial state of emergency and municipal injunction against the convoy as tools that “created the ability for us to use new and existing powers to be able to properly deal with the demonstration and ultimately bring it to an end.”

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

“Without the authorities that have been provided to us through these pieces of legislation, we wouldn’t be able to be doing the work we are today,” Bell said.

“We will run this operation 24 hours a day until the residents and community have their entire city back.”

As of roughly 5:30 p.m. Eastern, police could be seen with batons in hand as they pushed forward into the demonstration.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Ottawa’s occupying protesters remain defiant even as police forces move in'
Ottawa’s occupying protesters remain defiant even as police forces move in

Police have been moving steadily through the eastern side of the core, beginning on Nicholas Street and Rideau Street earlier Friday morning and moving up towards Sussex Drive and the National War Memorial.

Mounted units were on scene and suddenly charged a large group of protesters facing police lines in an apparent attempt to move the crowd up toward Wellington Street.

Some yelled, “You are trampling us!”

However, Ottawa police say that anyone who fell “got up and walked away” and were unaware of any injuries.

They say a bicycle was thrown at the feet of one of the horses in an attempt to injure it, and one person was arrested for intentionally harming a police service animal.

A shirtless protester dances in front of police as they work to bring the protest, which started in opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccine mandates and grew into a broader anti-government demonstration and occupation, to an end, in Ottawa, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang.

Demonstrators encamped on Wellington Street, which runs east-west in front of Parliament Hill, and Kent Street, which intersects Wellington Street running south, remain tightly packed.

Story continues below advertisement

Many were in the process of shovelling a fresh layer of snow and using it to build barricades, with a number of pickup trucks packed high with snow seen shuttling it between different areas of the city.

Police say some demonstrators remaining in the convoy were placing children between themselves and officers as law enforcement pushed to clear out the remaining blockades of the capital.

Ottawa police also warned journalists covering the operation to “keep a distance and stay out of police operations for your safety.”

“Anyone found within areas undergoing enforcement may be subject to arrest.”

Click to play video: 'Disruptive protests leave mixed results for shifting views on COVID mandates'
Disruptive protests leave mixed results for shifting views on COVID mandates

Parliament nixed plans for both the House of Commons and the Senate to meet on Friday over the Emergencies Act invocation, with House leaders expressing security concerns.

Story continues below advertisement

Liberal House Leader Mark Holland said the debate will continue on Saturday and into Sunday and Monday, with a vote on the measures scheduled for Monday at 8 p.m. — the same time scheduled before a day of debate was lost.

That debate has centered around questions from the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois over whether the Emergencies Act was warranted, contrasted with the government’s defence of the move.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday in a tweet that the act was invoked to “restore public order” and protect Canadians as the situation evolves.

He said the federal government’s top priority is making sure “your rights and freedoms are protected” and reiterated that authorities will have what is needed to get the situation in Ottawa under control.

However, Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen said in a tweet that she is “disturbed and saddened” by what is happening in Ottawa Friay and called for MPs to return to the House to “stop the overreach by this government.”

Minister of Justice David Lametti said the illegal blockades, while national in scope, have harmed certain cities, mainly Ottawa — and required a strong response.

Story continues below advertisement

“To those who claim that the disturbing situation is not a national emergency, I encourage them to talk to their fellow Canadians who have been living through it — the residents of downtown Ottawa.”

Click to play video: 'Trucker Protests: Over 100 arrested by Ottawa police in bid to end convoy blockade'
Trucker Protests: Over 100 arrested by Ottawa police in bid to end convoy blockade

In a press conference, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino also said that police were not overstepping by arresting convoy demonstrators.

“The powers are being exercised responsibility, they’re being exercised in a manner that is proportional to the circumstances and in a manner that is consistent with the Charter,” he said.

Mendicino added that “police officers from across the country” including as far away from Vancouver were engaged in the operations in Ottawa.

“Arrests are being made and the operation is ongoing,” Mendicino said.

Click to play video: 'Officers from across Canada assist Ottawa police to dismantle ‘Freedom Convoy’ blockades'
Officers from across Canada assist Ottawa police to dismantle ‘Freedom Convoy’ blockades

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland added that “action is being taken” not just on the ground in Ottawa, but also financially toward people participating in the so-called “freedom convoy.”

Story continues below advertisement

“If your truck is being used in these protests, your bank account will be frozen and your insurance will be suspended. The consequences for taking part in these illegal blockades are real.”

With donations coming from outside the country, Freeland added that Canadian democracy is being attacked by outside forces.

“Our economy and our democracy are facing a serious and foreign funded threat. These illegal blockades and occupations cannot be allowed to usurp the authority of democratically elected governments,” she said.

What has been done so far to clear the convoy?

As police moved in on Nicholas Street, the University of Ottawa issued a push notification to staff and students warning them to avoid the area due to “increased police action.”

“There is a large police presence on Nicholas Street, protesters are being advised to leave immediately,” said police in a tweet Friday. “Some protesters are surrendering and are being arrested. We ask protesters to remain peaceful and lawful.”

Story continues below advertisement

Earlier in the day, police had moved in on Rideau Street protesters, lining up opposite them in the middle of the road. The main road in downtown Ottawa had been shut down for several blocks.

Click to play video: 'Police making arrests at Ottawa protests'
Police making arrests at Ottawa protests

The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa said on Friday it was working alongside police.

“At the time of publication, CASO has not had to intervene with regard to children or youth connected to the demonstration. No children or youth have been transferred to the care of the Society,” said the organization.

“As police action unfolds, CASO continues to urge parents to make the necessary alternate care arrangements if they become unable to care for their children.”

Click to play video: 'How police enforcement on Ottawa’s occupying protesters could unfold'
How police enforcement on Ottawa’s occupying protesters could unfold

Tensions in the nation’s capital have been high as residents braced for promised police action after three weeks that have seen heated criticism of the response to the convoy by law enforcement.

Story continues below advertisement

Police escorted tow trucks to the downtown core on Friday morning as they escalated efforts to remove the demonstrators.

As enforcement efforts continued, police warned the 911 emergency lines had been faced with a “concerted effort to flood” both 911 and non-emergency policing reporting line.

“This endangers lives and is completely unacceptable,” the Ottawa police warned.

Thursday night saw little indication from protesters that they were concerned about the cops’ crackdown.

Multiple protesters who spoke to Global News expressed skepticism that they would face charges for what they considered a “peaceful” protest – despite Ottawa police having declared their encampment unlawful, and the federal Liberals invoking unprecedented emergency powers to help clear the blockade.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Ottawa’s occupying protesters remain defiant even as police forces move in'
Ottawa’s occupying protesters remain defiant even as police forces move in

“They’re not going to take my license or my freedom. I’m already 69 years old, so how much more freedom do I have? … It’s my cause,” said Mike from Windsor, Nova Scotia.

Mike sat in the cab of a yellow big rig parked at the corner of Rideau Street and Sussex – a central artery in downtown Ottawa that has been shutdown since the protest first rolled in. He refused to give his last name.

At one point, protesters formed a line across Wellington Street outside the historic Chateau Laurier hotel, and appeared concerned that police would start moving in. The line broke for a pickup truck and a big rig, however, after police allowed them to move to the main protest site near Parliament Hill.

Asked about the decision, one RCMP officer asked Global News what difference one more truck would make, given the protesters’ already entrenched position.

Story continues below advertisement

— with files from Eric Stober

Sponsored content