To the sound of boos and profanity, police are advancing rapidly through the streets of downtown Ottawa on Saturday morning, pushing into the main protest encampment and forcing protesters away from Parliament Hill.
Shortly after 9 a.m. ET, a large number of police officers reformed a line they had held Friday night and, with some holding riot batons, continued the advance that cleared vehicles and protesters from a large stretch of Rideau Street throughout the previous day.
Police have gained a large swath of Wellington Street from the protesters, clearing the crowd around the National War Memorial, and are now herding them away from the Parliamentary Precinct toward O’Connor Street, a south-running artery.
As officers pushed forward, members of the crowd hurled expletives at the front-line officers. Not long after, the crowd erupted into a round of O Canada and chants of “freedom.”
Police officers from several forces from across the country are taking part in the action, clearing intersections of protesters through co-ordinated advances. For weeks, protesters have occupied the area in front of the Parliament Buildings and other side streets, setting up tents and even building a stage.
Police have repeatedly told protesters to leave or face possible arrest, as they seek to end anti-vaccine mandate demonstrations that have lasted more than three weeks in the nation’s capital.
Police advance into the main protest encampment on Wellington Street in Ottawa on Saturday. (Alexander Behne/CBC)
Several big-rig trucks were seen pulling away from the protest site and driving south through Ottawa’s downtown over the past two days.
On Saturday, police said they arrested protesters in body armour who had smoke grenades and fireworks in their bags.
Earlier they reported that they had used a device that created a large bang during their advance, while one protester had also “launched a gas canister” at police.
Police tweeted that they haven’t used tear gas on protesters during this operation.
There were noticeably fewer protesters on the streets early Saturday morning, whereas many more crowded onto the streets on Friday to slow the police line.
The Parliamentary Precinct is in a “hold and secure” situation — meaning the perimeter doors are locked — and MPs, who have resumed debate on the Emergencies Act, have been advised against leaving the building.
Police from across the country enforce an injunction against protesters camped near Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Friday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
Ottawa police said they had arrested more than 100 people connected to the protests as of late Friday evening. On Saturday, police announced that another organizer, Patrick James King, is facing four criminal charges. Several other prominent figures within the convoy protest have also been arrested
Clearing streets a ‘tough assignment’ for police: mayor
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Saturday morning that about 20 semi-truck trailers had been confiscated by police the day before, while others left of their own accord.
“That was a tough assignment,” Watson said. “Probably the toughest assignment they’ll ever have in their careers.”
Watson said the city is working with federal and provincial officials to come up with a program to help support downtown businesses that were unable to open throughout the occupation.
The mayor said he expects the financial supports will be announced by the federal government later on Saturday.
“We will continue to push both levels of government for increased support for these individuals,” he said.
The city itself will be needing financial support from the provincial and federal governments as well, Watson said, adding it has absorbed more than $800,000 per day for costs associated with extra policing and other expenses.