LATEST UPDATES: 10:09 p.m. Eastern
- A protest staging area off Coventry Road has now been cleared, police say, with 20 vehicles towed and police remaining to prevent anyone returning.
- Ottawa police say businesses should now feel safe to reopen.
- 191 people have been arrested, 79 vehicles towed and 389 criminal charges have been laid on 107 people, Ottawa police say.
Ottawa police said Sunday that efforts to end the trucker convoy occupation in the city that has lasted more than three weeks are not yet finished and are now entering a “maintenance” phase.
Interim Chief Steve Bell said that the number of protesters in the city has “dramatically declined,” but measures, such as heavy police presence and fencing, are still required to “prevent the unlawful protesters from returning.”
He said 100 checkpoints around the city will remain for now and asked that citizens still respect them.
“We are using fences to ensure the ground gained back is not lost,” Ottawa police said in a Tweet earlier in the day.
So far, 191 people have been arrested, 79 vehicles towed, 389 criminal charges have been laid on 107 people, which Bell said range from obstructing police, disobeying a court order to assault.
“Every one of these have a backstory,” Bell said, noting that one protester attempted to disarm an officer holding a taser and was arrested.
A convoy staging site off Coventry Road has been cleared, police said Sunday night. Twenty vehicles were towed in the effort and police will remain in the area to prevent “anyone from returning.” A 4:30 p.m. deadline had previously been given to clear the area.
Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is looking into two incidents of police activity.
One is regarding police use of “less-lethal” anti-riot weapons on Saturday and the other is an incident involving at least one mounted officer that collided with a 49-year-old female protester who reportedly has “serious injuries,” according to SIU.
Police previously said there were no serious injuries from the incident with the horse, and that there no serious injuries on either side were reported from the use of the weapons.
Ontario’s SIU is a civilian law enforcement agency, independent of the police, that probes reports made by anyone, not just people who may be directly impacted.
They have encouraged anyone with video of the incidents to come forward.
Bell said that “with every hour,” police are getting closer to the goal of clearing Ottawa’s streets, and that the invocation of emergency acts by Ontario and the federal government have provided “support” to the operation.
The federal Emergencies Act, which had never been enacted before, is currently being debated by the House of Commons, with a vote scheduled for Monday at 8 p.m. on whether to continue with its invocation.
Ontario announced a provincial emergency before the federal government did on Feb. 14.
Bell said the acts have been “absolutely supportive” of “helping us to end” the occupation in Ottawa.
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Michael Duheme said that the federal emergencies act has helped maintain the perimeter around Ottawa’s downtown, restrict travel and “continue to choke off financial support” to protesters.
He said so far 206 personal and corporate accounts have been frozen and authorities are continuing to work to freeze others “suspected” of being involved in the occupation.
Where big rigs, RVs and cars once packed Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill three lanes deep, the street is now deserted on Sunday apart from a row of OPP SUVs and a plow clearing snow.
Ottawa police said Sunday evening that businesses should now feel safe to reopen and encouraged citizens to show their support.
Though Ottawa’s streets are largely clear, Bell said the operation is not yet complete.
“We can’t say when we will ultimately complete this operation as we now need to enter into a maintenance portion of it to make sure what occurred three weeks ago can never occur again,” he said.
“We aren’t there yet.”
He said over the next several days, police will identify what their “posture” will look like.
Bell said that “active intelligence” investigations are open to know people are leaving, and police are “attempting to keep tabs” on those “potentially massing to come back.”
For the third consecutive day, there has been heavy police presence in downtown Ottawa, as officers continue to clear out the so-called “Freedom Convoy” occupation that has paralyzed the nation’s capital.
On Sunday morning, officers were back at the protest site near Parliament Hill, where a convoy of protesters, many of them truckers, have been demonstrating against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health measures.
Police urged residents to avoid the downtown area and to remove all vehicles parked on streets between Metcalfe and Bay, and Albert and Gloucester.
On Saturday, hundreds of officers, some in full riot gear and deploying pepper spray, moved more aggressively to clear the area in front of Parliament Hill of people and vehicles illegally protesting COVID-19 public health measures.
Bell said officers had little choice but to use greater force in the face of demonstrators who ignored their repeated warnings to clear the area they had occupied for just over three weeks.
Peaceful protests in solidarity with the Ottawa demonstration were staged Saturday in Surrey, B.C., near a busy Canada-U.S. border crossing, as well as in Quebec City, and Fredericton.
— with files from the Canadian Press