Human Lives Human Rights: Police in Canada used pepper spray and stun grenades to clear the capital of trucks and demonstrators who occupied downtown Ottawa for more than three weeks to protest against pandemic restrictions.
Hundreds of arrests were made as police moved quickly to disperse the main portion of the blockade in front of parliament and the prime minister’s office.
Police used stun grenades and sprayed “a chemical irritant in an effort to stop the protesters.
Officers smashed vehicle windows to arrest people locked inside, but the overall number of protesters dwindled dramatically compared with previous days, with a couple hundred remaining near the advancing police cordon.
According to police, some of those arrested on the weekend wore body armor and had smoke grenades and other fireworks in their bags and vehicles.
The protesters could be counted in the low hundreds. Demonstrators chanted “hold the line”, some locking arms, but the numbers and force of the police officers easily pushed them back.
Many of the main organizers were taken into custody, and some have reportedly left. Organizers said on Twitter they were “shocked at the abuses of power by the law enforcement in Ottawa” and so “asked our truckers to move from Parliament Hill to avoid further brutality”.
The protest organisers said protesters had been “horse-trampled”, which police denied.
“We hear your concern for people on the ground after the horses dispersed a crowd. Anyone who fell got up and walked away. We’re unaware of any injuries,” police said on Twitter.
The protesters initially wanted an end to cross-border COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers, but the blockade has gradually turned into a demonstration against the government and against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau on Monday invoked emergency powers to give his government wider authority to stop the protests. He authorized banks and financial institutions to temporarily freeze the accounts of those suspected of supporting the blockades, without obtaining a court order.
Financial services providers have used the emergency powers to freeze at least 76 accounts with a total of 3.2 million Canadian dollars ($2.5m), Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said.
Tesla Inc’s chief executive, Elon Musk, has expressed support for the protestors who also replied on Twitter to a woman asking him to help the protesters.
“I wish I could help. At this point, it seems that voting at the next election is the remedy,” Musk replied.
After the protest crowds swelled on the three previous weekends, police set up 100 roadblocks around the downtown core on Friday to deny people access and prevent food and fuel from getting in.