Police in Canada continued their offensive on Saturday to break up the blockade of trucks and demonstrators that have been occupying downtown Ottawa for more than three weeks to protest against the country’s COVID-19 restrictions. Law enforcement officers used pepper spray and stun grenades in an effort to free up the streets of the capital that had been filled with protesters since last month. After making more than 100 arrests on Friday, police made an additional 47 arrests on Saturday as part of the move to kick out the protesters from the front of Parliament and the prime minister’s office. Those arrested included four protest leaders. “We told you to leave. We gave you time to leave. We were slow and methodical, yet you were assaultive and aggressive with officers,” police said in a statement.
As the police moved forward, organizers of the “Freedom Convoy” called for the holdout truckers to leave Saturday, citing what they described as heavy-handed police tactics. But they insisted this wasn’t the end and vowed they will regroup and continue demonstrating against the government. What had started as a protest by truckers against vaccine requirements for truckers entering the country quickly grew into a much broader demonstration against COVID-19 regulations in general and the government as a whole. The protests have largely been nonviolent but many Ottawa residents complained of harassment by protesters and complained the blockade had paralyzed much of the city.
Canada’s Parliament, meanwhile, resumed debate Saturday on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invocation Monday of the 1988 Emergencies Act, which gives the government broad powers for as long as 30 days. Lawmakers must vote within seven days to approve or reject the use of the act. It is expected to be approved. Authorities have so far used the emergency powers to seize 76 bank accounts connected to the protesters, totaling around $2.5 million.