Canadian Freedom Convoy: Canadian police arrest 70 as officers begin major operation to clear protesters


As of 3 p.m. EST, at least 70 people had been arrested for various offenses and 21 vehicles had been towed, according to Acting Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell.

“We are monitoring the situation on the ground and continuing to move forward to clean up our streets,” Bell told a news conference.

Canadian police launched an unprecedented operation Friday morning to remove protesters and their trucks and cars that have blocked Ottawa streets for weeks.

The operation includes municipal, state and federal law enforcement officers.

Riot police, some with tactical gear, along with officers on horseback, held back protesters as they continued their demonstration against Covid-19 health restrictions.

Several trucks and cars voluntarily left the protest, but dozens continue to block the streets in and around Parliament.

Ottawa Police tweeted protesters placed children between police operations and the protest site.

“Children will be taken to a safe place,” the tweet read.

CNN has observed these children at the protest site for the past several days. Bell said police did not need to interact with the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa regarding the children in the crowd. The society, according to its websiteis a community-based, non-profit organization funded by the Government of Ontario and legally mandated to protect children and youth from abuse and neglect.

“Even through all the planning, it still shocks and surprises me that we see children in danger, in the middle of a protest where a police operation is taking place,” Bell said. “We will continue to keep them safe, but we implore all parents who have children in there, get the children out of there.”

In a morning TweeterOttawa Police warned “Under provincial and federal law, you face severe penalties if you do not cease further illegal activities and immediately remove your vehicle and/or property from all sites of illegal demonstrations”.

Local media showed live footage of several arrests that passed without incident. Searches and police arrests take place within half a mile of the main protest site on Parliament Hill.

Police officers gather on a street during a protest against pandemic health rules outside the Parliament of Canada in Ottawa on February 17, 2022.

Bell said no protesters were injured during the day and one officer was lightly injured.

Debate in Parliament on the use of the Emergencies Act was scheduled to continue on Friday, but the House of Commons will not meet due to police activity in downtown Ottawa, the speaker says of the House of Commons, Anthony Rota, in a press release.

Ottawa police on Friday confirmed the arrest of two protest organizers, Tamara Lich, 49, and Christopher John Barber, 46.

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

Both are due in court on Friday.

Video posted to social media shows Lich interacting with a police officer, then being handcuffed and taken to a police car.

Lich encouraged protesters to gather in Ottawa and recently called on supporters to continue their protest despite it being declared illegal. She created a GoFundMe campaign for the “Freedom Convoy” which raised millions of dollars before being suspended by the platform.
The convoy first arrived in Ottawa on January 29 to express its disapproval of a vaccination mandate to enter the country or face testing requirements. In more than two weeks, the protest has since morphed into a broader grievance against all Covid-19 measures, including mask-wearing and vaccinations.
Ottawa police began erecting barriers and fencing throughout downtown on Thursday in an effort to clear the area of ​​protesters, who used trucks to block city roads and remained defiant in the face of calls of the police to disperse.

Overnight, the three police forces reinforced the downtown perimeter, which includes checkpoints at highway on-ramps and side streets.

Ottawa police chief quits, city officials say amid ongoing protests

The secure zone would ensure that those seeking entry for an “illegal reason such as joining a protest cannot enter the city center”, according to Bell.

With nearly 100 checkpoints, the perimeter encompasses most of downtown Ottawa and is much larger than the protest’s footprint to date.

Those who live, work or have a legal reason to be in the area would be allowed access, authorities said.

Trudeau defends call for emergency powers

Amid opposition in Parliament, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his decision to invoke emergency powers to end protests during an address Thursday to lawmakers.

Officials said a primary goal of invoking the Emergencies Act was to stifle funding for protesters in Ottawa.

“These illegal blockades are strongly supported by individuals in the United States and around the world,” Trudeau said. “We find that about half of the funding that is flowing to the barricaders here comes from the United States. The goal of all the measures, including the Emergency Measures Act financial measures, is to deal with the current threat only and to get the situation completely under control.”

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The law, passed in 1988 and never invoked before, can temporarily suspend citizens’ rights to freedom of movement or assembly. It may also provide for the use of the military, but Trudeau said that would not be necessary.

“We did it to protect families and small businesses. To protect jobs and the economy. We did it because the situation couldn’t be fixed by any other law in Canada,” Trudeau said. “For the good of all Canadians, illegal blockades and occupations must end, and borders must remain open.”

Blockades at border crossings in Alberta and Ontario ended this week, with arrests made as police cleared areas. Four people have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder blockading Coutts, Alberta, and several guns and cartridges have been seized.
Another blockade in Manitoba ended without incident, authorities said. The port of entry connecting Surrey, British Columbia, to Blaine, Washington, has also been reopened.
Candice Bergen, interim leader of the Conservative Party, said Wednesday that the party would not support a federal government motion to make full use of those powers, according to to CNN’s news gathering partner, CTV.

“The first act he does when he has the ability to do something – he doesn’t go through stages one, two, three – he goes straight to 100 and invokes the emergency law,” Bergen told CTV News. “I don’t think anything we see will change our minds, we will oppose it.”

The government must propose a motion to both the House and the Senate explaining why federal officials need the powers and specifying the actions that will be taken, and then the House and Senate must confirm the motions, according to CTV.

The federal government will work with premiers across the country “until the situation is resolved,” Trudeau said.

“As I said on Monday, the scope of the Emergency Measures Act is time-limited and targeted, as well as reasonable and fractional. It strengthens and supports law enforcement, so that they have more tools to restore order and protect critical infrastructure.”

CNN’s Raja Razek, Chris Boyette, Amir Vera and Jenn Selva contributed to this report.


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