Freedom Convoy in Canada: Covid-19 protesters and police face off in Ottawa amid freezing conditions

Tensions between Canadian authorities and protesters have been simmering over the last few weeks as crowds and idling trucks filled the capital city, demanding the elimination of Covid-19 preventative measures including mask and vaccination requirements.
On Friday, the gridlock reached a crescendo when Ottawa police say protesters assaulted officers and tried to remove their weapons. One person was arrested after throwing a bicycle toward a police horse, police said, and by the end of the day more than 100 were arrested and 21 vehicles were towed.

A protester was arrested Saturday morning as law enforcement stepped up efforts to clear out protesters.

“One protester launched a gas canister and was arrested,” Ottawa police said in a tweet. Police said they did not use gas on protesters.

Police response will be with public and officer safety in mind, police said.

Earlier Saturday morning, police warned protesters to leave.

Canadian police working to clear Ottawa downtown of protesters say they have arrested more than 100 demonstrators

“We were slow and methodical, yet you were assaultive and aggressive with officers and the horses. Based on your behaviour, we are responding by including helmets and batons for our safety,” police said.

Demonstrators have been blockading Ottawa streets since January 29; despite threats of legal consequences, many have shown no signs of backing down. In response, city, provincial and federal law enforcement officers began an unprecedented operation Friday morning to remove protesters along with their vehicles.

Police tweeted Saturday that they arrested protesters with smoke grenades and fireworks and wearing body armor. Additional smoke grenades and fireworks were found in a vehicle, police tweeted.

More than 100 checkpoints remain to keep more protesters from entering the city.

Legislators resumed emergency debate on the Emergencies Act.

The situation had prompted the Canadian House of Commons to cancel its meeting Friday, House Speaker Anthony Rota said in a statement. The meeting was slated to discuss the Canadian government’s invoking the Emergencies Act on Monday due to the protests, and officials say they hope Parliament will resume Saturday.

Ottawa police chief says 'action is imminent' in the plan to clear the area of Covid-19 demonstrators
The Emergencies Act — which is being invoked for the first time in the country since it passed in 1988 — can provide for the use of the military, but may not necessarily lead to that, and the prime minister said the government is not bringing them in.

The points of contention have also become more delicate in recent days as some protesters placed young children between them and police. CNN has observed those children on the protest site in the last several days.

DC prepares for potential similar protests

A primary goal of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invoking of the Emergencies Act is help curtail funding to Ottawa demonstrators, officials have said.

And Trudeau has pointed out that some people in the US as well as elsewhere are funneling funding to the protesters.

“We see that roughly half of the funding that is flowing to the barricaders here is coming from the United States. The goal of all measures, including financial measures in the Emergencies Act, is to deal with the current threat only, and to get the situation fully under control.”

Meanwhile, officials in US are concerned that similar unrest may arise in Washington, DC, as President Joe Biden prepares for the State of the Union address on March 1.

The US Capitol Police has begun coordinating with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in anticipation of a potential trucker convoy descending on Capitol Hill. The preparation efforts include Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Park Police, the United States Secret Service and the DC National Guard.

Canadian authorities carried out a massive operation at Ottawa's city center for protesters and trucks Friday

Organizers face charges

Several people arrested earlier this week have been charged in the protests, which in recent weeks have evolved from opposition to a trucker vaccine mandate to encompassing a disdain for all Covid-19 safety measures.

Patrick James King, 44, of Red Deer, Alberta, was arrested Friday, according to Ottawa Police.

King is charged by the Criminal Investigations Section with mischief, counseling to commit the offense of mischief, counseling to commit the offense of disobeying court order, and counseling to commit the offense of obstructing police.

King will appear in court on Saturday.

He is the third organizer to be arrested by law enforcement in Ottawa.

On Friday, Ottawa police confirmed the arrests of organizers Tamara Lich, 49, and Christopher John Barber, 46.

Fact check: Strong majority of Canadians oppose convoy protests, poll after poll finds

Lich was charged with counseling to commit the offense of mischief and Barber has been charged with counseling to commit the offense of mischief, counseling to commit the offense of disobeying a court order, and counseling to commit the offense of obstructing police.

Barber had a contested bail hearing Friday, attorney Diane Magas said in an email to CNN. He was released on the condition that he leave Ottawa and a bond, she added. Lich is scheduled to appear in court Saturday morning for her arraignment.

This week, blockades to border crossings in Alberta and Ontario culminated in arrests being made as police cleared the areas. Four people have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder at the blockade at Coutts, Alberta, and multiple weapons and rounds of ammunition were seized.

CNN’s Paula Newton, Paradise Afshar, Travis Caldwell, Raja Razek, Chris Boyette, Amir Vera, Chuck Johnston and Jenn Selva contributed to this report.

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