February 21 (UPI) — Authorities in Ottawa have said the so-called occupation of the Freedom Convoy in the Canadian capital has been largely dismantled, but police action will continue to prevent further illegal protests.
Acting Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell told a news conference on Sunday that following a series of “successful” operations the previous day, the number of protesters in the capital had “decreased considerably”.
“We promised earlier this week that we would clear our streets and return them to our people. We promised that we would return our city to a state of normality,” he said. “Every hour we are getting closer to that goal.”
The convoy descended on the city’s downtown in late January initially to protest a cross-border vaccination mandate for truckers, but expanded to fight other measures put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.
On Sunday, 191 people were arrested in connection with the protest and 107 people were charged. A total of 389 charges were laid, Bell said. Ontario Provincial Police deputy commissioner Chris Harkins said 76 vehicles were seized and towed away.
“Each of these arrests has a back story,” Bell said, explaining that one of those charged was an individual who attempted to grab a police Taser.
The charges include obstructing police, disobeying a court order, assault, mischief, laying a weapon and assaulting a police officer.
Authorities noted protesters assaulted officers with weapons, prompting the deployment of medium-range impact weapons known as ARWENs.
The Ottawa Police have already noted he arrested protesters carrying dead bodies armed with smoke grenades and fireworks with additional supplies discovered in a vehicle.
However, following police operations over the past few days, city crews were now clearing and plowing the occupied area, Bell said, adding that police measures such as fencing, heavy presence of officers and checkpoints would remain in place. The police had previously noted there were a hundred checkpoints around the city center.
“While I know many are happy to see that many illegal protesters have left, this is not the normal state of our city. Despite the successes of the past few days, we still need these measures to prevent the illegal protesters to come back,” he said. .
The operation is not over, he said, adding that it includes another phase to identify how to maintain the streets and demobilize once the threat of further protests has passed.
“We’re not there yet,” he said. “We will identify over the next few days what the posture of the police services will look like to see how we maintain and ensure that no bodies return to occupy our streets.”
Sunday night, Ottawa Police tweeted that the Coventry road where the protesters had themselves camped had been dismantled, resulting in the towing of 20 vehicles.
Earlier on Sunday, the department warned protesters they had until 4:30 p.m. to clear the encampment before a police operation “ensure the area is cleared.”
The dismantling of the protest was led following the invocation of the Emergencies Act early last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which gave authorities additional enforcement powers. of the law.
On Sunday, an independent special investigations unit said it was investigating ARWEN’s dismissal by police and an incident Friday in Ottawa where a 49-year-old woman was struck by a police horse. The woman was unharmed.
Ottawa police said following the incident that a bicycle was thrown at the horse, causing him to trip and the woman who fell “got up and walked away”. A person has been arrested for intentionally injuring a law enforcement animal.
“We respect the oversight process and will always cooperate fully,” he said in response to the inquiry.
On Saturday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said that under the Emergencies Act, it froze 206 financial products, disclosed information about 56 entities and shared 253 bitcoin addresses with virtual money changers. One of the financial institutions had frozen a payment processor’s account worth $3.8 million, the RCMP said.