The center of Ottawa recovered at least in part its usual image this Monday after being occupied since January 28 by hundreds of trucks whose drivers were protesting the containment measures of covid-19, especially against the obligation to have a passport. covid to cross the borders of the country. After concluding the eviction operation of the last protesters that began on Friday, the heart of the Canadian capital woke up without trucks or other vehicles parked in the middle of its streets, but surrounded by a fenced perimeter, with a reinforced police presence and in full work of the cleanup crews trying to erase the trail of waste left behind by the carriers and the thousands of anti-vaccines who later joined them.
The Canadian police had already announced on Sunday that they were working to ensure that “no one returns to occupy the streets” of the city, Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell stressed at a press conference. Since Friday, when the large-scale police operation that managed to evict the last protesters began, 76 vehicles have been towed and 191 people arrested, according to data from that Canadian security body. The agents have also dismantled the warehouse that supplied food and other basic goods to a part of the thousands of people who once camped in the center of the city and who put the government of Justin Trudeau on the ropes, to the point of force his Executive to declare a state of emergency in the capital on February 6.
In an unusual action for security forces that until a few days ago had faced the blockade with an attitude of dialogue with the protesters, this Saturday, the police used tear gas and other riot gear against those who had ignored police warnings and of the leaflets distributed by the agents during the previous days in which they were ordered to leave the area. The police intervention thus managed to clear most of the area in front of Parliament, whose House of Commons (lower) had been forced on Friday to suspend its ordinary session to avoid incidents while the eviction operation was taking place. The frigid temperatures — the wind chill was 20 degrees below zero — and the snowflakes that began to fall helped the most reluctant protesters to clear downtown Ottawa leave overnight.
Among those arrested, there are several leaders of the protest. For example, Pat King, one of the most recognized figures of the protesters. Two other organizers of the so-called transporters’ freedom caravan, Chris Barber and Tamara Lich, had already been arrested on Thursday. The three leaders face charges of incitement to commit damage, obstruction of justice and disobeying a court order.
In his appearance, Steve Bell specified that the police operation has not yet finished and that “it will last for months” as the agents will continue “trying to identify and indict the organizers of the protest with criminal charges and financial sanctions.”
By early last week, the situation had become untenable in Ottawa. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers not used since 1970 to deal with the protests, while Chrystia Freeland, finance minister and deputy prime minister, on Friday defended the use of the Emergency Act to vacate the center. Ottawa, stressing that the country’s economy and democracy were under threat.
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The Canadian police had already completely vacated on February 13 the border crossing of the Ambassador Bridge, which connects the Canadian province of Ontario with the state of Michigan, in the United States, which had been blocked for several days after the protest of the truckers from Ottawa extended to the crossing that concentrates 25% of bilateral merchandise trade between the two countries. This border blockade added pressure to the government of Justin Trudeau, as the authorities of the neighboring country questioned the Canadian strategy of not initially resorting to the use of force against protesters.
The blockades of the so-called freedom caravan protest have also caused significant economic losses. The Government of Canada has already announced aid worth 138 million euros (200 million Canadian dollars) for Ottawa businesses affected by the protests. The Canadian Executive is now working to prevent new demonstrations, not only shielding the center of its capital, but especially at the Pacific Highway border crossing in British Columbia and in Prescott, Ontario. “The goal is to safely end these illegal blockades and occupations and restore order as soon as possible to ensure the safety of Canadians and an end to economic disruption,” the Canadian government said in a statement.
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